If you have ever worked behind a bar or in a restaurant the chances are you’ve been on a zero hours contract. For a lot of people who take these jobs, it is to gain some extra money whilst studying or over the summer holiday’s. Sometimes you just need the flexibility to say; “I can’t work for a few weeks, the kids are off school for the summer”, “I’ve got exams for the next 2 weeks so I can’t work”.
Zero hours contracts have been demonised and misunderstood by the press. They are not the problem. Lack of regulation and bad practises in a few circumstances are the problem. If ever there was a case of the few spoiling it for the many, this is it. If unions want real issues to solve they should be working with employees who’s bosses are abusing zero hours contracts.
McDonalds is a prime example of good practise, it offers it staff on zero hours contracts the ability to ask for fixed hours contracts. However 80% of staff chose not to, because it fitted their lifestyle. Arbitrary figures about people on zero hours contracts earning less when compared to fix contract workers means very little. Simple because the people on zero hours contracts are often looking for and doing a different kind of work.
Outright banning zero hours contracts could result in people loosing jobs. A lot of hospitality and retails business can’t always predict demand and the hours they will have available. Imagine a pub where the TV is showing the football, sometimes people stay a couple hours after the game other times they all head off as soon as it is finished. Currently if an employer has on average 10 hours of work available per week and 12 flexible zero hours contract employees. They are able to divide this work up fairly and conveniently between the 12 employees.
By forcing an employer to guarantee work, say an hour a week. When demand is slow and the employer doesn’t have the work, they will be forced to cough up the cost of employing someone. If the boss doesn’t have the flexibility to respond to the demand of his bottom line quickly, it disappears and so does the business. Now you have 12 employees out of work. Or you end up by reducing the number of employees you have so you can guarantee them hours. In doing so these employees are now required to work and loose the flexibility that suited their lifestyle.
Zero hours contracts are often vital to those who are attempting to progress in life and the most vulnerable. Classic examples are the student who needs some additional income to cover living costs, or the carer who can’t always work regular patterns.