Poll: Is it right to force people into zero-hours contracts?

Jobseekers face temporary benefits bans if they refuse to take some forms of zero-hours contracts under the coalition Government's welfare reforms.

Claimants risk losing payments for more than three months if they fail to accept zero-hours contracts as part of the new universal credit system
Claimants risk losing payments for more than three months if they fail to accept zero-hours contracts as part of the new universal credit system

Claimants risk losing payments for more than three months if they fail to accept certain positions on such terms as part of the n ew universal credit system.

Employment minister Esther McVey outlined the change in a letter to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore in an exchange about benefits sanctions, according to the Guardian.

Jobcentre "coaches" will be able to "mandate to zero-hours contracts" if they consider the role is suitable for a claimant, it added.

Ms Gilmore told the Guardian: "While I don't object to the principle of either universal credit or zero-hours contracts, I am concerned about this policy change.

"I also fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hours contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term."

Last week unions called for action against zero-hours working after a study showed about 1.4 million jobs involve contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said most of the contracts were zero hours, under which people are not guaranteed work from one week to the next, but officials pointed out that some workers could have more than one contract.

A study among employers showed that 13% used non-guaranteed hours contracts, rising to almost half in the tourism, catering and food sectors.

More than one in five employers in health and social work reported using them, but they were relatively rare in financial, manufacturing, energy and agricultural services.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: " With Universal Credit, claimants will not be required to sign up to exclusive zero hours contracts. As now, if there's a good reason someone can't just take a particular job they won't be sanctioned.

"But it is right that people do everything they can to find work and that we support them to build up their working hours and earnings. The average zero hours contract provides workers with 25 hours of work a week - and can lead to long-term opportunities.

"Universal Credit payments will adjust automatically depending on the hours a person works to ensure that people whose hours may change are financially supported and do not face the hassle and bureaucracy of switching their benefit claims."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: "Just last month, Employment Minister Esther McVey said that no-one at Jobcentre Plus would be forced to apply for a job offering a zero-hours contract. Now we hear that they'll receive sanctions if they don't.

"David Cameron's Government now needs to urgently clarify the circumstances in which someone will be forced to take a zero-hours job.

"The huge increase in zero-hours contracts under the Tory-led Government is another sign of their failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and deliver a recovery that works for everyone.

"Labour would outlaw zero-hours contracts where they exploit people, as well as improving opportunities for jobseekers by reforming the failing Work Programme.

"Labour's Compulsory Jobs Guarantee would also get the long-term unemployed into a 25 hours-a-week, paid job - work they'd have to take or lose their benefits."

Asked whether David Cameron thought it was right for jobseekers to face benefit sanctions if they turn down zero-hours contracts, the Prime Minister's official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "He does think that it is right, as part of the introduction of Universal Credit, that there should be a requirement on people to take work opportunities that are offered, such as the ones you refer to.

"Individual decisions about tailored work requirements for people who are in receipt of taxpayer-funded benefits are taken on a case-by-case basis by Jobcentre staff.

"But as a point of principle, should we be expecting people to seek employment in return for benefits and do we have a system, in the Universal Credit, that is designed to respond to changing earnings? He does think that's the right approach."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The Government is blaming unemployed people for losing their jobs, and imposing a regime that looks more and more like punishment rather than real help back to work.

"Forcing people into uncertain employment is not the answer to unemployment and may restrict the ability of claimants to seek secure, permanent work. We know that for many workers zero-hours contracts mean zero job security, poor pay and no way of knowing what they'll be earning from one day to the next.

"An increasing number of unemployed people are being penalised for breaking rules unintentionally and are facing life with no benefits for months as a result."

Comments for: "Poll: Is it right to force people into zero-hours contracts?"


It is rare that I agree with unions re: strikes, but on this occasion I agree with the TUC general secretary. These zero hour contracts aren't worth the paper they are written on and are absolutely useless for a guaranteed weekly/monthly pay.


Many years ago my wife was involved in interview panels whilst working in the NHS and I was occasionally involved in interviews, at that time the tendency was to lean towards recruiting the person who was already working and could provide work related references. It did not matter how many hours a week were worked or if it was paid or with a voluntary organisation, just the fact that the applicant did not want to sit at home doing nothing was a big incentive to employ a person. I would therefore suggest that Zero hours or part time contracts are a route to full time work if the person is worthy of being employed, because work is not a right, it is not yet part of the Human Rights laws.


I agree Charlie.

Why should anyone sponge on benefits if there is work, even zero hours contracts, available.

Zero hours contracts are not a new invention, they have been about under other names for many decades.

A successful, well balanced economy, needs to have zero hours contracts as long as they are used fairly and properly.

New businesses who are unaware of the demand for their product, perhaps need to start up with zero hours contracts, as does seasonal work, particularly farm work and the hotel and catering trade and work affected by the weather. If zero hours contracts would not be available for these types of work the consumer would have to pay much more for the product.

Students, single parents and the elderly benefit from these sorts of contracts.

The trades unions do not like them because they feel they lose membership and subscriptions.


But how will it work Markie if it is abused by employers?

I have a nephew who worked for a well known sports firm who was on such a contract. He is not work shy, but he never knew what hours he was working or were available on a daily basis let alone a weekly basis. Is this okay for a young person, let alone a single parent or married person? How can people budget if they have bills to pay and food to feed their family? Will the DWP have the facilities to adjust weekly benefits in accordance with the hours claimants work on these contracts?

There is merit in people on benefits showing a willingness to work, but in the long term, for job security and proving income for mortgages or rent these contracts are unworkable. Hence tax credits and other benefits are paid to top up their income. How will the Universal Credit work to accommodate the needs of the low paid or will food banks continue to grow?

There is a hardcore amount of people who don't or won't work and think a life on benefits is the answer. Obviously this group need to be targeted but to think one size fits all is not right, it feels wrong to force such a contract on those who are looking to work a 35-40 hour week.

I would be really interested to see how this will work in practice. Call me cynical but it is funny how all these initiatives are put into the press around election times!


Obviously abuses need to stop if they exist.

The downside to zero hours contracts is that the income is not reliable, but for working tax credits you estimate your income over a year, this helps to even out the fluctuations in wages.

The self employed are in the same boat.

When unemployment gets lower, as it is, the proportion of work shy, who are many gets larger. The same appkies to those who are already working and consequently are stealing benefits. We need to make it difficult for these people to sponge on the rest of us.

Margaret Hamilton

More benefits are paid to people in work on low pay than are paid to people without work. Surely it make sense to increase wages to a sensible level so that people can support themselves? I never met a generous employer.


Yes working tax credit was about the only good thing from recent Labour governments.

I have met generous employers and heard of lots more. They are often able to give help or support that public sector bosses are not permitted to do.

A friend of mine had to take unpaid leave from work to care for her dying husband. She was off work for nearly 2 years but her employer let her use the firms car, taxed and insured, for the entire time, and free of charge.

Firms can only pay wages that allow them to be competitive in the world markets, increasing wgaes above what they can afford puts jobs at risk.

If you paid people on zero hours contracts in hotel leisure and catering or fruit picking a wage above the minimum wage for what is largely, unskilled work the effect on costs in what is a labour intensive industry would put many hoteliers and restaurants out of business and the price of fruit and veg would rocket.


"Universal Credit payments will adjust automatically depending on the hours a person works to ensure that people whose hours may change are financially supported and do not face the hassle and bureaucracy of switching their benefit claims.

"This will create a huge amount of work for the benefits agency. Keeping track of this will be a logistical nightmare.

The only good thing is that they will need to employ more staff to deal with the extra work hopefully not on zero hours contracts.


IF zero hour are good, lets put ALL MPs on it.

An lets start with the PM as of NOW..................How I thought NOT.

Just another way to get wages DOWN and to fudge the unemployment figures YET AGAIN.

To make out WE HAVE NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD for next years elections.

As if the working man / woman isn't being crucified enough by this government. As the TORIE rich get richer as the poor working class have to turn to FOOD banks just to keep going.


As the old saying go's, If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

What THIS government cannot see if you allow firms to pay minimum wage IT always falls back on the state to prop up that persons wage with housing benefit etc. to allow them to live. How I forgot under this government we are still SURPOSE to live on 10 bob a week and save a shilling for hard times.


Stearmans overhead kick

Good idea for the long term unemployed ,Who don't want work.


Lead by example then and be the first in the queue for a zero hour contract!!


I'm not a staunch union person, but to all those saying its a good idea to get people off their bums and into work...I bet you're not one of those having to work on one of these contract and liking it? As for the Union bit of the comment. It has taken many thousands of people over the years to fight for people to have some kind of standard of living and now this is being erroded away slowly. Employers loving the fact that this government wants to take more employee rights away and allow the employer to do what they want to their employees. Like I said, I know the Unions are far from perfect, but I would fully support any action they take over this type of contract, no matter who it is aimed at. Give people jobs with regular hours so they can plan and have a life with out financial worry.


How the heck are seaside hotels going to cope?

Double their charges in the summer?

And the farmers?

Double the cost of their produce?

Where will students, pensioners and single parents, who are very happy for the opportunity to have a zero hours contract, work.


Markie: Short term contracts have been around for years and years. Hotels. farms and other places have always used them. People who take jobs with these firms know that it is temporary work and prepare for it. These Zero hour contracts are being used by lots of employers who don't want the comitment to employees and need to get rid of them anytime they want and for any reason.Perhaps only certain temporary types of work should be allowed to use this type of contract?


I did make the point that they have been around for years. As I said earlier abuses need to be stopped.