Official figures out later this week will confirm what we know to be true: zero hours contracts are not going away.
Hundreds of thousands of workers in roles from supply teachers to shop workers remain trapped in jobs so insecure they’re unable to plan childcare or budget for groceries.
This is why the government needs to use the forthcoming Employment Bill to get rid of them for good.
At the last count around 900,000 people in the UK were on zero hours contracts.
For many this means not knowing when they will next work, vulnerable to last minute shift cancellations and prevented from putting down roots because banks don’t want to lend to them and landlords are wary of them.
A wide range of voices have now spoken out against zero hours contracts:
- Among them are business people like hi-fi retailer Julian Richer who called them “evil”.
- The independent Low Pay Commission that sets the minimum wage said workers should have the right to switch to a contract that reflects their normal hours of work.
- And trade unions have led a long-running fight for their abolition.
Employers who use zero-hours contracts claim they offer flexibility and choice.
But far too often this is a one-sided flexibility when the employer decides when and where they want someone to work. And the worker has to agree or risk shifts drying up.
Zero-hours workers are supposed to get statutory annual leave and the National Minimum Wage, but they’re often denied these basic entitlements and have no legal right to sick pay.
For many people a zero-hours job is their only choice for work. The vast majority would far rather have a regular hours job.
The TUC wants workers to get guaranteed hours so they can pay the bills and save for the future. And a right to reasonable notice of shifts, with compensation if they’re cancelled.
The government has the opportunity to deliver this when it brings an Employment Bill to Parliament, which is expected later this year.
Ministers have acknowledged there is a problem but advocate only giving a right to request a contract with regular hours. This is no to right at all when an employer holds all the power in a workplace.
At best, an employer accepts the request and the guaranteed hours are approved. However, a worker might not only have their request is turned down but also have their shifts cut for the following few months.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Trade unions in the Republic of Ireland recently won a near total ban on zero-hours contracts and other key rights for people in insecure work.
This included the right to compensation from employers if sent home without work and the right to guaranteed hours that reflect their normal working week.
If the system can change in Ireland it can change here too.
Join us in sending a message to the government: sign the petition now and demand a ban on zero-hours contracts for UK workers.