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28th January 2021


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Soapbox: CIPD calls for balance in debate on zero hours contracts

Gerwyn Davies, labour market adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, writes in response to yesterday's Office for National Statistics report on zero-hours contracts, which have shown a modest increase:

"The latest ONS statistics suggest that there has been a further modest increase in the number of people on zero-hours contracts and a growing proportion of people on zero-hours contracts for more than a year. However, it is important that the debate about zero-hours contracts is a balanced one, recognising that when managed well, these contracts can benefit both employers and workers.

Recent CIPD research found that zero-hours workers, when compared to the average UK employee, are just as satisfied with their job (60% vs 59%), happier with their work-life balance (65% vs 58%), and less likely to think they are treated unfairly by their organisation (27% vs 29%).

However, one in five zero-hours workers say they are sometimes (17%) or always (3%) penalised if they are not available for work, while almost half say they receive no notice at all or find out at the beginning of an expected shift that work has been cancelled. The banning of the use of exclusivity clauses should hopefully have reduced the instances where zero-hours worker are feeling exploited, but employers using these types of working arrangements should manage them carefully.

The CIPD therefore recommends that employers should:

* Conduct regular reviews on whether zero-hours contracts are appropriate for the nature of the work involved, and are offering the right balance of mutual flexibility for employer and employee

* Pay zero-hours workers travel expenses and at least one hour's pay where work is cancelled at short notice

* Ensure zero-hours workers are paid at comparable rates to anyone else doing the same or similar work

* Train line managers to ensure that the reality of the employment relationship is consistent with the contract and that the employment rights of zero-hours workers are recognised

It is also important to recognise when debating the pros and cons of our flexible labour market that according to OECD data in 2013*, 79% of UK workers are on permanent contracts compared to 77% in Germany, 74% in France and 65% in Italy. Overall, the quality of employment in the UK compares more favourably with other countries than is often thought to be the case.

The CIPD's report 'Employment Regulation and the Labour Market (2015)' also finds that:

* Compared with the European average, the UK has a larger proportion of 'good' jobs and a smaller proportion of 'low quality' jobs. Overall, 65% of jobs in the UK are rated as good jobs*, compared to just 54% in Italy, 50% in France and 49% in Germany

* As a whole, 84% of UK workers say they are satisfied with their working hours (EU 28 average 80%) and 77% report they are satisfied with their work-life balance (EU 28 average 74%). UK workers don't seem much more fearful of losing their jobs than workers in countries with stricter employment protections (12 - 14% across UK, Germany, France and Italy)

The CIPD will be publishing further research on zero-hours contracts at the end of September 2015."


4th September 2015

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