ZERO HOUR CONTRACTS
LUKE HUTCHINGS >
Since the financial crisis struck in 2008, the number of people on zero hours contracts has risen by 600%.
This rapid increase and the parallel growth of the “gig economy” has really changed the face of the workforce. But there has been disquiet over the practices that some companies deploy with their zero hours staff, leading to accusations of lazy employers exploiting these perhaps vulnerable workers. Important legal judgments recently confirmed that some employers have acted badly, with Uber losing a big claim at the Employment Tribunal earlier this year.
For these reasons, the Government has appointed Matthew Taylor, an economist and head of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce to review the law around zero-hours contracts and recommend changes if necessary. Early signs are that Mr Taylor agrees that some employers are “lazy” and do not properly value the flexibility that zero-hours contracts give them. So far, he has hinted at two proposals that he may make as part of his review.
The first would be that workers who are “on call” receive a bonus in their hourly rate when they are called into work at short notice. Mr Taylor thinks this would encourage business to guarantee more hours in advance and tackle the precarious nature of some zero-hours work.
The second is that zero-hours workers would get a new statutory right to request fixed hours from their employer. This would not be a guarantee of getting fixed hours, but the system would work like the current system of requesting a flexible working pattern. The employer would have to consider the request genuinely and meaningfully, and would need to have a justifiable business reason for turning the request down.
Whilst no-one can yet say what recommendations will result from the Taylor review, it seems there is zero chance that there will be zero change for zero-hours contracts in the UK.
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