Employers benefit through cutting cost by placing employees on zero-hour contracts, a practice whereby the business is obligated to provide the employee with a minimum guarantee of zero hours, great for the business in terms of flexibility and low commitment for short-term and temporary staffing but distressing for those who struggle living in financial uncertainty.
According to the research conducted by the CIPD a shocking 14% of people on zero hour contracts do not feel they receive sufficient working hours each week to accommodate a basic standard of living. A percentage, which many fear may continue to rise with the popularity of the zero-contract as an option for businesses. The report continues with expressing the fear that zero hour contracts may be used as managerial manipulation tools, using the offer of extra hours to incentivise employees to act in ways beneficial to the business. If companies deter discrimination or harassment tribunal claims using this tool, there may be an even greater problem for employees to face, which is sadly exasperated with the introduction of tribunal fees earlier this year.
Furthermore, employees working under a zero hours contract do not attain the same employment rights as those on an employment contract as the requirement for a full employment contract calls for the expression of “mutuality of obligation” within the contract. Interestingly, recent case law has indicated a trend for tribunals to recognise “mutuality of obligation” if a zero hour contract employee is working on as assigned task as obligation is created in this piece of work, even though it could be a one-off, thus fortunately there is a recognition of employee protection.
Zero hour contracts can, if implemented fairly, be a great way for employees to work with flexible hours and for companies to maintain lower overheads associated with the fixed costs of labour- a winning scenario for all! As long as we don’t see any repeats of Sports Direct’s appalling manipulation of their part-time staff who were termed ‘casual’ staff leaving them not only ineligible for the company’s bonus share scheme but being denied paid annual leave, sick pay and all other employee benefits available to full-time staff whilst placing the same obligations on the ‘casual’ workers as the full-time workers. This unjust employment system was used to take advantage of the 20,000 part-time Sports Direct employees.
The moral of the story – zero contracts aren’t terrible but make sure your employment contract is not unlawfully denying you of your employment rights.
If in doubt regarding your employment contract and you do not know where to go or who to ask to clarify any questions then talk to your local Citizens Advice Bureau who will be able to offer impartial, free, confidential and unbiased information about your employment contract.
Use the link below to find your local bureau!
Additionally ACAS provides great online resources for any employment questions or queries, alongside offering an advice line as well, see the link below.
photo credit: Labour Youth ~ Óige an Lucht Oibre via photopin cc