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The case against zero hours contracts

Prospect asks members for their experience of zero hours contracts

A CIPD survey suggests that over a million UK workers may be on zero hours contracts - many more than previously thought. Employers use zero hours contracts to give themselves maximum flexibility, and the worker minimum rights.



Zero hours contracts are used in many Prospect areas: we have a range of members working on freelance or consultancy contracts, which have no minimum number of hours. This lack of security and undermining of legal rights means that zero hours workers need union protection to ensure fairness at work.

Have you got personal experience of zero hours contracts (ZHCs) or do you know anyone who is employed on such a contract?

The TUC is now collecting personal stories and case studies about ZHCs, and it's important that your voice is heard!

The findings will be presented to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who announced a review of ZHCs in June. Mr Cable has promised to collate the evidence and issue a report.

ZHCs provide staff with little security, a fluctuating income, loss of important employment rights and are open to abuse by employers.

Research by the TUC and affliated unions found that ZHCs permeate the whole economy but are especially prevalent in health and social care, education and transport.

Your stories will be used by the TUC to show Vince Cable the widespread use of ZHCs and how they're used by employers to exploit staff.

In particular:

  • many workers on ZHCs are not able to benefit from full employment rights, such as statutory notice, unfair dismissal and redundancy
  • erratic working patterns under ZHCs can result in staff losing out on certain benefits, such as the National Minimum Wage or tax credits
  • they may be required to be on call 24 hours a day – refusal can mean they're not offered shifts again
  • workers can find it difficult to get a loan or mortgage because of their fluctuating income and uncertain employment
  • staff on ZHCs often suffer from poor health and anxiety.

While employers argue that ZHCs enable them to build a more flexible workforce, in reality they are used to reduce wages and to avoid employment rights obligations.

There are real concerns about the pernicious effects of ZHCs on demoralised staff in key public service sectors such as health and social care, or the rail industry.

A good employer can build a motivated workforce by consulting employees through their trade union. In many cases, ZHCs are not appropriate and not needed.

Please send your stories about ZHCs by 31 August to linda.sohawon@prospect.org.uk