FAQ - Zero Hours

What are zero hour contracts?

A:

Zero hours contracts are casual contracts which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. Some casual contracts will have a minimum number of hours, such as eight or 16 hours, but hours and days of work can vary dramatically from week to week. Employees work only when they are needed, often at very short notice. In the worst examples employees are required to be available to work whenever needed and precluded from working for anyone else but guaranteed absolutely nothing. This is the kind of contract that many people are now calling to be banned.

Are all zero hour contracts bad? Some employees and employers want flexibility

A:

Casual contracts already fill that gap for businesses. When you’re on a casual contract, you know you’re signing up for irregular and insecure work (and maybe that’s what you want at the time) and you have the option of opting out of shifts, resigning without much notice, etc. just as your employer does. Whereas if you’re on a zero-hour contract, your employer has complete control over your shifts and can drop you to zero hours without notice. The ban we are calling for would be on the use of zero-hours contracts which require employees to be available to their employer at any time, and to work exclusively for the employer but which guarantee zero minimum hours to the worker. It should not prevent an employer and employee agreeing on a flexible working arrangement, as long as it were fair to the worker.The Unite Union (which represents more than 7,000 fast food workers) National Director, Mike Treen says Zero-Hour Contracts make workers vulnerable to abuse as they became too nervous to speak out, for fear of having their hours reduced. Treen also says zero-hours contracts gave employers flexibility, but the amount of flexibility they actually needed was often exaggerated.  "It's not like they have huge swings or anything. They know how much they are going to sell on any particular day of the week during the year.  "We don't expect everybody to have guaranteed hours but 80 per cent of the crew should be able to have it."

What do you imagine the steps are toward achieving a ban?

A:

There are various avenues and directions in which this campaign can head.

The experience of other countries suggests the need for:

  • Thorough investigation into the growing use of zero-hour contracts as well as the effect that they have on workers lives, as well as workers’ ability to apply for benefits, allowances and other forms of income support as a result of insecure work

  • A full public consultation into these controversial contracts

  • Clarity for employees in contracts and job adverts that people are entering a zero hours contract

  • Full details should be published to show how many people are working under these contracts, and how many companies are using them