Zero hours contracts to be examined by Government

Zero hours contracts are the subject of a fact-finding exercise by the Government amid concerns of their misuse by some employers, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) confirmed today.

BIS told Personnel Today that it aimed to better understand the issues around such casual contracts, where workers are paid only for the hours worked. Government officials will be speaking to a variety of stakeholders, including trade unions and industry bodies representing sectors where zero hours contracts are most in use.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: “In the last decade, there has been a steady rise in the number of zero hours contracts. For some these can be the right sort of employment contract, giving workers a choice of working patterns. However, for a contract that is now more widely used, we know relatively little about its effect on employers and employees. There has been anecdotal evidence of abuse by certain employers – including in the public sector – of some vulnerable workers at the margins of the labour market.

“While it’s important our workforce remains flexible, it is equally important that it is treated fairly. This is why I have asked my officials to undertake some work to better understand how this type of contract is working in practice today.”

The TUC welcomed the news. General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “With the tough times set to continue, now is the perfect time for the Government to be reviewing – and hopefully regulating – the increasing use of these exploitative contracts.

“Young people desperate to gain experience of the world of work are the most vulnerable to this kind of exploitation. Anyone employed in a zero hours way can never be sure how many hours they’ll work or how much money they’ll get in their pay packet, which puts a real strain on their already stretched finances and can make organising childcare a logistical nightmare.”

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