The Zero Hours Contracts Bill will prohibit the use of zero hours employment contracts, particularly those requiring workers to be available for work but where there is no guarantee of work available.
The Office of National Statistics estimates at least 200,000 people are employed on zero hours contracts in the UK, of which 75,000 are aged 16-24.
Andy Sawford said ‘Zero hours contracts are now widespread in many sectors of the economy and are particularly prevalent in areas of higher unemployment where the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in Britain exist without knowing when the next payday might come. Hundreds of constituents have contacted me about zero hour’s contracts. People tell me about waiting for a call or turning up to the workplace day after day, only to find that there is no work, yet their contracts make it difficult to find alternative employment or to claim job seekers. I have heard examples of people making childcare arrangements or paying for transport to work and then waiting for hours before being told they are not needed. Other people have told me that because of zero hours contracts they are unable to get a bank overdraft, a mortgage or car finance’.
However, John Cridland, Director General of the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), defended the contracts as keeping thousands in work and off the dole; “these contracts play a vital role as a way of keeping people in employment,” said Mr Cridland. “If we hadn’t had this flexible working when the economy contracted, unemployment would have topped 3m – and it didn’t. The head of the independent employers’ body told the Financial Times critics of the scheme needed a “reality check” while the Institute of Directors said those opponents to the contracts had missed the point.
There is no doubt that the abolition of zero hours contracts would have a major and far reaching impact on many business sectors. They are commonly used by pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hotels as a way to trim wage bills. The use of zero hours contracts has become so widespread that they are even common in Parliament. The House of Lords itself employs 26 catering staff on zero hours.
The Zero Hours Contracts Bill would prohibit the use of such zero hours contracts. Whether the Bill becomes law now, later or at all depends on Parliament. However, it is only likely to be passed now of course if the Government allocates time to allow its passage. Most commentators think its passage is unlikely – watch this space!