Labour launches attack on zero-hours contracts

Posted on 25 Apr 2014 by The Manufacturer

Labour leader Ed Miliband has set himself in opposition to zero-hours contracts in the UK.

During a visit to Scotland today Mr Miliband will express his concern about the “epidemic” of zero-hours contracting in the UK and also warn his audience that dealing with this epidemic would be “harder” in an independent Scotland.

Zero-hours contracts allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, only paying them for whatever hours they work.

In the manufacturing sector, they have become a popular employment mechanism in the food and drink sector, among others, to the outrage of Unions.

There are thought to be around one million people now working on zero-hours contracts across the UK, around 90,000 of which live in Scotland.

Mr Miliband will acknowledge the flexibility that zero-hours contracts offer employers but state his belief that good employers tend not to use them because they are “incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce”.

Mr Miliband has committed to tackling the worst abuses of a system says “has left too many people not knowing how they will make ends meet from one week to the next, and unable to plan for the future.”

To do this Labour proposes that workers on zero-hours contracts would:

  • not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours
  • be free to work for other employers
  • have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice
  • have “clarity” from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions
  • have the right to request a contract with a “minimum amount of work” after six months with an employer – this could only be refused if employers could prove their business could not operate any other way
  • have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with an employer