Workers must get fair deal - Cable


LibDem Annual Conference

The Government has repeated its insistence that it will not ban zero-hours contracts but wants to make sure workers are getting a "fair deal", following a huge response to a consultation.

There were more than 30,000 responses after Business Secretary Vince Cable said he wanted to review the use of the contracts, under which people do not know if they have work from one week to the next.

Estimates on how many workers are on zero-hours arrangements vary from 580,000 to around a million, with unions suspecting it could be higher.

Mr Cable said: "It is clear that a growing number of people are using zero-hours contracts. While for some they offer welcome flexibility to accommodate childcare or top up monthly earnings, for others it is clear that there has also been abuse around this type of employment, which can offer more limited employment rights and job security.

"We believe they can have a place in today's labour market and are not proposing to ban them outright, but we also want to make sure that people are getting a fair deal.

"This is why we conducted research last summer and launched a consultation looking at the key concerns, such as exclusivity clauses and the availability of clear information. We don't think that people should be tied exclusively to one employer if it unfairly stops them from boosting their income when they are not getting enough work to earn a living.

"We also want to give employees and employers more guidance and advice on their rights and responsibilities around these types of employment contracts."

Martin Smith, national officer of the GMB, said: "Zero-hours contacts are not only exploitative, they lead to legitimisation of workers waiting on street corners and in car parks to be picked up and offered some work for the day, always at below minimum wage, no security or health and safety.

"They also have a detrimental impact on family life. Workers say that they are unable to have a family meal together because they never know when they will be working or not."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The growth of zero-hours contracts, along with other forms of precarious employment, is a key reason why working people have seen their living standards worsen significantly in recent years.

"These contracts are commonly associated with poverty pay, poor terms and conditions, and leave staff vulnerable to exploitation from bad bosses.

"We welcomed the Government's belated acknowledgement last year that abuse of zero-hours contracts needs to be stopped. It's disappointing therefore that they've failed to back this up with any meaningful policies to tackle exploitation."