Zero Hours Contracts – Con? Or Commercial Sense?

Well, is it a Con?

Or actually does it make good commercial sense?

Zero Hours Contracts, aren’t they a good way to create a flexible workforce with zero committment and in this economic climate that seems to make a great deal of sense? Yes?…Do you agree?……

Well….clearly Vince Cable doesn’t agree…………….


You may recall that the Labour government raised concerns over zero hours contracts and employers’ use of them and it seems that the latest regime have anxieties of their own.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has been tasked to review zero hours contracts in light of very recent figures which indicates not only how use has grown but particularly in the 18-24 year old age group.

So what do the figures show?  Compared to the period between October and December 2009, there were 150,000 zero hours arrangements in the UK.  In the same period some three years later, that figure had risen to 200,000.  The Office for National Statistics feels this may be an under estimation.

Trade unions have deemed the contracts unfair and a means of having workers on standby or on call to come into work without any guarantee of minimum hours or any work at all.  For some people however, the zero hours contract suits their needs and lifestyle.  For some industry sectors, the flexibility they offer suits ever-changing operational needs and demands.

The concern for the moment however, is that ‘zero hours’ equates to ‘zero rights’ in the workplace according to Lord Oakeshott who instigated the parliamentary question leading to this research.  Lord Oakeshott is seeking an end to these arrangements.


Zero hours arrangements or contracts can vary in their nature.  Some ‘casual’ arrangements can mean that workers get the minimum of benefits and rights.  However, many zero hours contracts carry many of the same benefits for those employees as compared to their colleagues who have guaranteed hours.  As importantly, it is important for employers to review the nature of casual and zero hours working arrangements on a regular basis – if your workers or employees are building up a regular working pattern regardless of the nature/wording of their contract, it may be time to review their contractual arrangement and introduce minimum working hours, particularly if there are no foreseen fluctuations in the workload.  It is important that the status of workers is accurately documented and that future problems connected with this are managed effectively at an early stage.

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