Over the past few years, zero-hours contracts have caused a lot of controversy. Some laud the flexibility, whilst others see zero-hours contracts as a mechanism for employers to label their employees as ‘self-employed’, to avoid the employment rights attached to workers and employees.
The subject of zero-hours contracts has been a key political issue. The government have commissioned what is named the ‘Taylor Review’ to look into this as well as all other employment practices. This review is expected to recommend that workers on zero-hours contracts be given a right to request to switch to fixed hours. We think that this right will be similar to that of the legal right to request flexible working, where all employees can apply but employers will have limited grounds to refuse such a request. If this is introduced, we feel that there will be a low bar for employers to refuse them, just as there is with flexible working requests. The Confederation of British Industry agree with this idea. Trade Unions have expressed their displeasure of this proposal; they say the right does not go far enough. The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have said in their manifestos that they are willing to go further, namely completely eradicate zero-hours contracts completely.
Not all that bad?
Contrastingly, there is evidence to suggest that zero-hours contracts may not be that bad after all. McDonalds have recently offered to let their employees on zero-hours contracts switch to permanent hours in 23 of their restaurants. Only 20% wanted to switch while the others preferred the more flexible way of working, even if it would mean there would be less certainty over their income.
How each political party intends to resolve this hotly-contested issue may well sway votes in the upcoming general election. We shall await and observe the future of these contracts.