McDonald’s are pulling a fast one on zero hours

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The weekly Thompsons Solicitors blog

 

The big news of the week is McDonald’s doesn’t seem to know how many staff they need from one day to the next.

 

You would think, after all these years of selling burgers in Britain, they would have pretty good systems for monitoring the appetites of their customers. But it seems they don’t trust themselves to get it more than 10% right.

 

That surely can be the only legitimate explanation for McDonalds having 90% of its staff on zero-hours contracts and being told from week to week if and when they will be needed.

 

But do they seriously believe that they need that degree of operational flexibility? Of course they don’t. The reason McDonald’s puts some 82,000 or so people on zero-hours contracts is because they want to keep them in a permanent state of insecurity, in fear of rocking the boat and not being given any paid work.

 

A survey of more than 1,000 employers published this week by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that more than one million workers are on zero-hours contracts – far more than the government’s official figure of 250,000.

 

Vince Cable, the business secretary, says he’s reviewing the problem and will decide in September whether or not to hold a formal consultation on specific proposals.

 

But it’s really not that complicated.  There is no excuse for major employers – most of them making huge profits – to have thousands of people on these shoddy terms.

 

It doesn’t take a genius to plan the number of staff you need. Few employers would need more than a small minority of casual staff to deal with peaks and troughs. Most of them are predictable – after all, we know Christmas comes every year.

 

If employers aren’t prepared to do the right thing, the government already has the power (so far unexercised) in section 23 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 to confer rights on individuals.

 

This should include the right to work for more than one employer and the right to turn down work without losing the contract.

 

The Institute of Directors claims a ban on zero-hours contracts would be ‘extremely damaging’ to the economy. Really? I can’t see McDonald’s turning its back on its burger-loving British customers – though maybe we should turn our back on them.

 

Read more about zero-hours contracts in this week’s LELR Weekly.

 

See news about the Unions21 Labour Party Conference event on Zero Hours here

 

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