Think tank offers policy proposals on zero-hours contracts

Submitted by sglenister on Wed, 18/09/2013 - 16:46

For Immediate Release

18 September 2013

Following Business Secretary Vince Cable's announcement this week that a consultation will be launched into zero-hours contracts, the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) published policy proposals that aim to eradicate the exploitation of workers while retaining a degree of flexibility for businesses.

Professor Keith Ewing, President of the IER and author of the proposals, puts forth the following recommendations:

  • All workers must be provided with a written statement of their working time arrangements;
  • All workers must be engaged on 'defined hours contracts', which set out the minimum number of hours they will be required to work each week or month;
  • Contracts must state how many hours the worker will be expected to be on-call, set out as a percentage of the minimum defined hours with a statutory maximum of 20%. So if a worker is contracted to work a minimum of 5 hours a week, an employer can lawfully require them to work 6 hours a week – with one of these hours 'on-call' – but no more;
  • Workers subject to these controlled on-call arrangements should be entitled to a retainer while on call of at least minimum wage;
  • Additional flexibility for employers may be secured by providing that the maximum period on call can be averaged over 13 weeks. So if a worker is contracted to work a minimum of 5 hours a week, they may be required to work 13 hours of on-call work at any point and in any distribution over 13 weeks;
  • For extra flexibility, non-defined hours contracts will remain legal so long as they are introduced with the agreement of a recognised trade union;
  • These non-defined hours contracts should be limited in time and subject to monitoring and supervising jointly with the trade union;
  • Breach of these obligations would result in criminal penalties and civil sanctions; there would be no opt outs.

Professor Keith Ewing says:

"Most decent people think that the practice of zero-hours contracts needs to be stamped out. It is exploitative and abusive, and while it may benefit some, the convenience of a few must not be allowed to justify the misery of what is likely to be the overwhelming majority."

"There will no doubt be complaints of over-regulation if the IER's proposals become policy. But if employers did not behave badly and irresponsibly, and if all employers treated their workers decently and with respect, there would be no need for any regulation on this as on any other issue."

To read the full briefing, please click here


Notes to Editors:
For further information, contact:
Carolyn Jones, Director of the IER
0151 207 5265

IER: The Institute of Employment Rights was established in February 1989. It is a network of academics and lawyers acting as a focal point for the spread of new ideas in the field of labour law. It is an independent charity supported by trade unions representing over 6 million UK workers. See Tel: 0151 207 5265

Professor Keith Ewing: Professor Keith Ewing is President of the IER and Professor of Public Law at Kings College London. He is author of numerous labour law publications.

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