What are zero hours contracts? – In a nutshell

Published on 16th September 2013

Zero hours Contracts – expert advice from Belinda Newton at The HR Dept Ltd

Click here to view the transcript
Lately, newspapers and politicians have been screaming loudly about zero-hour contracts claiming, often incorrectly, that they deny workers holiday pay.

Used properly, zero-hour contracts allow an employer to manage variations in demand. For example, seasonal attractions peak during school holiday times but are often weather dependent. Being able to plan to have the right number of staff on duty at short notice on a given day makes good business sense.

For many staff this casual arrangement works well, with the worker being able to refuse work if it does not fit with their plans — this is a right they have.
Of course there are rogue employers who issue all staff with zero hours contracts and then penalise those that refuse shifts. This is not the intention or stated purpose of using such contracts, and is grossly unfair.

Even worse are those employers who insist anyone working for them is “self-employed”, when in reality they aren’t. Thus ensuring the person has no employment rights whatsoever and the employer can avoid certain tax liabilities, such as employer’s National Insurance.

Just because some employers use zero hours contracts unfairly does not mean that everyone should be banned from using them, as some politicians and unions are calling for. Perhaps we should be looking at tightening up the circumstances in which they can be used, so that those businesses and workers who need and like the flexibility can have it, and those employers who are just using them to exploit their staff cannot do so.

There is a bigger picture here and it comes down to the individual needs of your business, and one of those needs has to be the morale and welfare of your staff. Therefore, employers should be looking at what arrangements they have with their workers and deciding what suits them and their staff best.

Building the right team with the flexibility that both your business and your workers need is the way to go.


Belinda Newton
The HR Dept Ltd
http://www.hrdept.co.uk
belinda.newton@hrdept.co.uk
0845 863 0653

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