Government review to order zero-hours contracts overhaul

25 May 2017


According to a BBC News report, the government-commissioned inquiry into controversial working practices (Taylor review) is set to call for employees on zero-hours contracts to be given the right to request a move onto fixed hours.

The "right to request" fixed hours will be similar to the present right to request flexible hours - after having a child for example. Employers would have to respond "seriously" to the request and give reasons for their decision.


The move comes as the employers group, the Confederation of British Industry, revealed it backed the idea.

In its submission to the Taylor review, the CBI also said that all employees should have their terms and conditions set out in a written statement.

The new "right to request" fixed hours could be used by some of the 900,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a number that has risen from 143,000 in 2008.

The contracts have been attacked for allowing some firms to keep people in insecure work, depress wages and deny people their full employee rights.


Flexibility 'appreciated'

Sources told the BBC that Mr Taylor had been struck by the example of McDonald's, which offered all its staff on zero-hours contracts the chance to move onto fixed hours.

McDonald's chief executive, Paul Pomroy, told the BBC that about 20% of employees on zero-hours had asked for a move but that 80% were comfortable with no guaranteed hours. He said that for many employees such contracts offered the flexibility they wanted and that McDonald's still offered full rights to people who worked on them.

Mr Pomroy said:

"Our staff really appreciate the flexibility they get from zero-hour contracts. Two years ago our staff started to tell us they needed some form of contracted hours because they wanted to get mobile phone contracts, car loans and - as they got older - mortgages to buy houses. So we had to change and listen to our people.

And we have tested fully flexed contracts where you can either stay on zero hours or move to some form of permanent hours. Interestingly, 80% of people in our restaurants stayed on zero hours - they want that flexibility and 20% are moving to one of the offers around the fixed hours.

In this modern world that we live and work in, it is not all the stereotype - we have students that want flexibility when they are studying, we've also got mums and dads that want flexibility around child care and grandparents that are earning a bit of money while looking after their grandchildren and they want to be off in the school holidays.

Certainly don't ban them.”


CIPP comment

Taylor Review of modern employment practices

The issues around the gig economy have and continue to receive a lot of attention and in 2016 the Prime Minister asked Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, to carry out a study on the employment implications in the gig economy. In November 2016 the review was launched with a regional tour to discuss the UK’s labour market; speaking to workers and employers working in sectors such as the gig and rural economies and manufacturing, to fully understand the impact of modern working practices and how different labour markets work.


The review is addressing 6 key themes:


Security, pay and rights

To what extent do emerging business practices put pressure on the trade-off between flexible labour and benefits such as higher pay or greater work availability, so that workers lose out on all dimensions?

To what extent does the growth in non-standard forms of employment undermine the reach of policies like the National Living Wage, maternity and paternity rights, pensions auto-enrolment, sick pay, and holiday pay?

Progression and training

How can we facilitate and encourage professional development within the modern economy to the benefit of both employers and employees?

The balance of rights and responsibilities

Do current definitions of employment status need to be updated to reflect new forms of working created by emerging business models, such as on-demand platforms?


Could we learn lessons from alternative forms of representation around the world?

Opportunities for under-represented groups

How can we harness modern employment to create opportunities for groups currently underrepresented in the labour market (the elderly, those with disabilities or care responsibilities)?

New business models

How can government – nationally or locally – support a diverse ecology of business models enhancing the choices available to investors, consumers and workers?


The Taylor review closed on 17 May 2017 for the submission of evidence.  The findings and recommendations from the review are due to be published later this year.