Although zero hour contracts may be great for some, for those who are trying to earn a living and have stability in their lives, these contracts are not what they’d hoped for. For those who don’t know what zero hours contracts are, which is probably very few, it is the agreement between the employer and worker, which means they are not obliged to provide the worker with any minimum working hours. This also means that the worker does not have to accept certain hours, but how many is offered can vary from week to week.
Life on a zero hour contract can be tough for some, especially when they can’t find work elsewhere so therefore, they do not give up the little work they could be given. Other jobs may not be able to provide flexible hours and so, this may be their only option. The Labour party was particularly interested in ending exploitative zero hours contracts but considering they were not elected by the general public, workers could still have to face the dreads of minimal working life.
Ian Duncan Smith, the Conservative work and pensions secretary, said that zero hours contracts should be re-branded and called ‘flexible-hours contracts’. He disagrees with former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, and says that most people who are on this kind of contract are those who cannot guarantee hours. These are people who have caring responsibilities and people who are in education.
On the flipside of this, zero hours contracts are useful for these kinds of people as students in particular, who may need to have a job to fund their living or university fees, can work around their own schedule. However, this still does not guarantee work when they may need it and the employer does not have to give the work. Although it is a good point from the work and pensions secretary, something needs to be said for those who may not be as flexible but do still need to work at certain times.
Patrick Tatarian, a student ambassador on a zero hours contract at Kingston University said: “Zero hours contracts do have added flexibility and having flexible hours is good when you have other commitments, such as us student ambassadors. There are times where we’re too busy to work.”
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that between October and December 2014, 697,000 people were employed on a zero hours contract for their main job. This was based on figures from the Labour Force Survey. All in all, this figure represents a total of 2.3% of the UK workforce. This figure is still higher than the figure of 586,000, which is 1.9% of people in employment, reported for the same period in 2013.
According to the ONS, this survey also found that employees received on average 25 hours of work per week with a third of those wanting more hours. This compared with only 10% of other people in employment. In addition, the ONS also said that the zero hours workers were, in most cases, women or in full-time education and aged under 25 or over 65.
For now it seems, zero hours contracts are to stay put in the UK and this may please or displease some people. As the economy grows there could be a chance that there would be less need for them as businesses would have more money to offer employees jobs that would have more security for them.