A higher minimum wage for non-guaranteed hours?

20 March 2018

The Low Pay Commission is keen to hear from employers, workers and their representatives on both the problem of one-sided flexibility where workers are on a zero or short hours contract.

As part of its response to Matthew Taylor’s review of good work, the government has asked the LPC to consider the impact of a higher minimum wage for those hours that are not guaranteed as part of a contract.

The issue they want to tackle is that some workers, including some on zero or short hours contracts, can suffer what Taylor calls ‘one-sided flexibility’. Employers can shift the risk of unpredictable working patterns onto workers, who have little say over what can be unpredictable and volatile working schedules.

The idea is that a higher minimum wage for these non-guaranteed hours would compensate employees while encouraging employers to offer more predictable and stable work schedules. However, the LPC has also been asked to consider any other ideas that may lead to the same or better outcome.

Research into atypical contracts last year found cases of the one-sided flexibility that Matthew Taylor talks about. For example, Andreas, a bar worker on a zero hours contract, told the researchers:

My contracted hours are zero but I've been doing, since the day I started I've been doing pretty much full time, so around 30 to 35 hours. However, it's bar hours and it's not steady because if we're not busy I get sent home. And there have been days that they've called me and they've told me they don't need me, like an hour before my shift. So it varies.

Similarly, Lisa working in a fast food outlet, said:

Come Thursday night when I’ll check my schedule, I have no idea what I’m going to have next week. It causes a lot of anxiety and I know it will be a lot worse for the people who aren’t as lucky as I am with the scheduling. It’s a lot of instability.

This research, alongside others (by the TUC, GMB/speriCitizens Advice) suggests that there is an issue to be tackled but doesn’t say enough about the scale and nature of the problem or the appropriate response. The LPC is particularly keen to hear about good practice, where flexible working works for both the employer and the worker

Each year the LPC consults with a range of organisations, employers and individuals.  This year in addition to the request for evidence on the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates, it also wants your views on tackling one-sided flexibility.

The consultation was published on 5 March and closes on 1 June 2018.

CIPP comment

We are running a series of minimum wage quick polls and our latest one asks:

Do you currently have different rates of pay for workers who do not have guaranteed hours within their contracts?” Possible answers are:

  • No distinction is made
  • Yes we pay a higher rate
  • We no longer have non-guaranteed hours
  • The NLW rate has removed the differential

Please take a moment to answer the poll which is situated to the right of this, and every CIPP news item. Your feedback is also very welcome to the policy team; please do email us with your thoughts and views.