HR & Management

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Zero-hours contracts have been “unfairly demonised”

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A survey of more than 2,500 workers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that zero-hour workers are just as satisfied with their job as the average UK employee, and are more likely to be happy with their work-life balance than other workers.

Where zero-hour contracts are being used for the right reasons and when people are managed in the right way, they are providing flexibility that works for both organisations and individuals, says the CIPD.

“The majority of people employed on zero-hour contracts are satisfied with their jobs,” says Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD. 

“But we also recognise that there is a need to improve poor practice, for example the lack of notice many zero-hours staff receive when work is cancelled. If this is unavoidable then employers should at least provide some level of compensation.”

Instead of restricting the use of zero-hour contracts through regulation, Cheese says more effort should be put into improving employer understanding of how to use these contracts more responsibly and within the law.

“The emphasis should be on improving management practice and enforcing existing regulation first, rather than bringing in new legislation which would be extremely hard to do without unintended consequences,” he explains. 

“Employers that took part in the research told us that if restrictions were placed on employers’ use of zero-hours contracts, they would simply switch to another form of casual labour. Such an approach would also penalise the majority of zero-hours workers that choose these types of working arrangements because they suit their particular circumstances.”

Currently, around one million people – or 3.1 per cent of the UK workforce – are employed on zero-hour contracts. On average, zero-hours workers are nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with having no minimum set contracted hours as they are to be dissatisfied, the research shows.

“The reality of today’s globally competitive economy and increasingly complex and age diverse workforce is that flexibility is here to stay,” adds Cheese. “Zero-hours contracts combined with good management can be an effective means of matching the needs and requirements of modern business and modern working lives across a wide range of employment sectors and job roles, in organisations of all shapes and sizes.”

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