Sports Direct to Buckingham Palace: ‘Zero hours’ working spreads across the economy
Today the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have predicted that as many as one million UK workers could be on zero-hours contracts – four times the official estimate.
For workers on such contracts, life can be painfully uncertain. If you get no work for a week or two, getting a mortgage, or arranging childcare can be a nightmare. Planning ahead becomes something only your boss can do. Zero-hours work is nearly always low paid, with many workers denied holiday and sick pay because their “contract of employment” only lasts a few hours at a time.
They are also taking their toll on services, as zero-hours contracts are used to cut costs. The TUC has already heard stories of home care workers on zero-hours contracts being moved all over the place, which means they never get to know the people they’re looking after properly. Insecure work can mean insecure care.
We’ve also heard from staff on zero-hours contracts, forced to work several jobs to avoid weeks of no pay. This can leave them exhausted and the services they provide potentially unsafe.
In a few cases the flexibility of these contracts can benefit workers. But we’ve heard story after story of people being short-changed on other entitlements, or dumped when business turns quiet.
Zero-hours contracts too often mean flexibility for the employer, but insecurity, low pay and fear for the worker.
In response to the public outcry on zero hours, Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced a review of the contracts. This is a start, but it has to result in strong regulation to stamp out this abuse.
CIPD’s call today for stronger guidance on the issue does not go nearly far enough. The government must crack down on employers who are using zero-hours working as way of cutting costs and boosting their profit margins.
People deserve much better than to be treated as cheap, disposable labour.