Zero hours clampdown 'not enough'

Government moves to clamp down on the abuse of zero hours contracts won't stop workers being exploited, union leaders have warned.

Zero hours contracts workers are dogged by low pay and job insecurity, says the TUC
Zero hours contracts workers are dogged by low pay and job insecurity, says the TUC

In submissions to a consultation, ministers were criticised for not bringing forward any "meaningful policies" to tackle abuses.

The TUC said zero hours workers were dogged by low pay, job insecurity and under-employment, with half earning less than £15,000 a year.

Three quarters of those on zero hours contracts, under which people don't know if they have work from one week to the next, report that their hours change each week, said the TUC.

The Government's consultation did not deal with problems such as employers evading basic rights such as maternity leave and redundancy pay, it was warned.

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.

"If the Government wants to be on the side of hard-working people it needs to put proper policies in place to curb exploitative working practices, even if this means ruffling the feathers of a few business lobbyists."

Unison said the consultation was a "missed opportunity" to help hundreds of thousands of workers.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "This consultation misses the bigger picture and we urgently need a comprehensive review into the prolific use of zero hours contracts. At a time when permanent jobs are scarce, workers need secure employment more than ever.

"We must put a stop to workers on these contracts being exploited by having no guaranteed hours. They lose out on basic workplace protections because they fail to qualify as employees, lack the necessary continuity of service or are exploited by their employer for being unaware of their employment status or employment rights."

A Business Department spokesperson said: "Government recognises that a growing number of employers and individuals are using zero hours contracts. While for many people they offer a welcome flexibility, for others it is clear that there has been evidence of abuse around this type of employment which can offer limited employment rights and job security.

"We believe they 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. That is why we conducted research this summer and are currently carrying out a consultation into zero hours contracts. The consultation is due to close on Friday."