Zero power for workers on zero hours contracts
The Thompsons Solicitors Union Home blog
Following an informal information gathering exercise last year, the government recently announced a consultation on zero hours contracts to investigate the extent of their use and abuse by unscrupulous employers. Many union members will already know the answer.
Workers on zero hours contracts go without even the most basic employment rights. They are expected to be available as and when they are needed but without any guarantee of paid work. They can be sent home without warning and often receive no holiday or sick pay. Even more shocking is the use of ‘exclusivity clauses’ which ban the employee from taking employment elsewhere -even when no work is available.
Employers take advantage of the fact that zero hours contracts are not properly defined in law so there is a serious lack of transparency around the terms and conditions under which workers are employed; conditions which place the balance of power overwhelmingly in favour of the employer.
And, it is worrying that the government doesn’t know how many people are currently employed on zero-hours contracts.Estimates vary wildly – it could be anything between 250,000 (Office of National Statistics) and 1 million (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).
As part of its consultation, the government is seeking views on the abuse of exclusivity clauses and on the various terms and conditions under which those on zero hours contracts are employed. The consultation also includes proposals to introduce measures to avoid abuse and to provide guidance on the fair use of zero hours contracts.
To fight the cost of living crisis staring the UK in the face, it is vital that abuse from unscrupulous employers,who put profits ahead of the basic welfare of their workers is tackled head on. While we may be encouraged that this consultation has been opened, it is hard not to dismiss it as a way for the government to put an issue that requires immediate redress on the back burner.
Given this government’s record on tackling employment rights, we should be sceptical as to whether the consultation will lead to real action to tackle zero hours contracts once and for all.
To submit your view on the consultation (which closes on 13 March), click here: