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Charlie Mullins: Zero-hours contracts just reinforce a culture of benefits

4 Mins

In the simplest of terms, it’s abusing the system and sticks two fingers up at an economy that the rest of us are working so hard to support.

What’s most surprising to me is that despite zero-hours contracts being treated like economic leprosy by most-right thinking business owners, they have actually spread quicker than a social media debate about the colour of a dress.

Since 2013, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the number of zero-hours contracts has jumped by 400,000 to 1.8m.

That’s a hell of a lot of people without the guarantee of a minimum number of hours of employment.

The argument that people prefer the flexibility of zero-hours employment just doesn’t wash with me. Even those with kids, or those balancing studying with part-time work, who need flexible employment still need some sort of financial security.

After all, landlords or mortgage providers wouldn’t be happy with a zero-payment from someone on a zero-hours contract. And in the same vein as minimum wage-avoiding firms, how are these contracts meant to encourage people to get into work? 

Getting people working is what’s going to make the economy grow, but instead, all these businesses are doing is helping to reinforce the culture of making a life on benefits more attractive than a life of employment.

And, just like not receiving the minimum wage, zero-hours contracts offer no incentive for people to go to work. Of course, having a job isn’t just about the wage. It’s also about encouraging a sense of self-worth and making people feel like they are a valued and contributing member of society. 

How can people do that if they turn up to their place of work to be told they should go home because there are no hours for them?

Businesses have a responsibility to the people they employ and that includes a guarantee of a certain level of work. It’s simple common sense with not even a single shade of grey – you either employ someone, or you don’t. 

Read more from Charlie Mullins: 

I believe a full-time job should be a promise of work for a minimum of 35-40 hours a week and only less if it’s an agreed part-time position or job-share arrangement.

Anything other than that isn’t “a job” at all. 

One of the greatest satisfactions I get from being a business owner is creating employment. While Labour would like to paint a picture of entrepreneurs as money-obsessed monsters willing to tread on anyone in their path to get their hands on the cash, we do actually have other motivations. 

Seeing my workforce reap the rewards of our successful business through our collective efforts is extremely fulfilling. I don’t think this is a romantic, rose-tinted view. In fact, it has to be the reality. The economy can’t afford for it not to be. 

If these immoral employers get their way with their use of zero-hours contracts, the country will either end up with a zombie workforce lurching between sofa and workplace hoping for the sniff of a few hours paid graft, or even worse, a country with a hamstrung economy held back by a benefits-addicted population.

Image: Shutterstock

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