Zero-hours contracts

16 May 2014

Workers on zero-hours contracts could be given the right to request fixed contracts, the business secretary has said.

The BBC News has reported that the government is considering giving workers on zero-hours contracts the right to request fixed contracts.

Speaking at the Resolution Foundation, Vince Cable said that while Labour’s call to give workers the automatic right to a fixed contract after a year was not “wise”, the Government would seek to “move forward” on allowing employees to ask for fixed contracts. "I think that is an area in which we need to move forward and we are looking at how we can best do it," he said.

The business secretary said there was evidence of abuse by employers, in particular over exclusive contracts. He also said Labour's idea of giving workers the automatic right to a fixed contract after a year was not "wise".

Zero-hours contracts, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, are popular with many companies because they offer flexibility. But critics say they can leave workers with little financial stability or security, few employment rights and not enough work.

'Balance'

The government says such contracts offer an average 25 hours of work a week and can be a good means of gaining experience. However, Mr Cable said he believed employees could be given the right to request fixed contracts in the way they can currently request flexible working.

CIPP comment

At the end of 2013 the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) published a consultation to seek further evidence on the problems identified around the use of zero hours contracts. The government has not yet published a formal response to this consultation.

The CIPP surveyed members and submitted its response to BIS back in March. There was unanimous agreement that the current guidance does not help individuals challenge exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts, and that more generally, the government should provide clear and straight forward support and guidance to help both businesses and individuals understand their rights and obligations.