British Retail Consortium defends use of ‘zero-hour’ contracts

Employers’ bodies have slammed trade union plans to lobby government for a ban on the use of ‘zero-hour’ contracts.

Delegates at the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) annual conference in Brighton earlier this month voted for a campaign to ban contracts that don’t guarantee work.

The PCS claimed that the contracts allowed employers to abuse employees by keeping them waiting around for work, and not offering proper training or job security. Delegates called for a campaign, in conjunction with the TUC if possible, aimed at curtailing or banning the use of zero-hour contracts.

But the British Retail Consortium insisted that many employees enjoyed having flexible terms. “It is wrong to characterise zero-hour contracts as exploitative,” said a spokesman. “They offer flexible working opportunities that many people appreciate.

“Often employees want to stay at a firm, but can’t commit to permanent hours for family or other reasons, and it is in both their interests and the employer’s to keep them on a zero-hour contract.”

Adam Turner, employment lawyer at law firm Lovells, said: “I can see an argument for zero-hour contracts to be more regulated to increase protection.” Someone obliged to work when needed is likely to be classified as an employee otherwise they are a worker, and have fewer rights, he said.

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