‘Zero-hours’ contracts for workers to be reviewed by Coalition

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, is worried that some are being abused by companies

The Government is to review the use of controversial “zero-hours” contracts under which employees are put on standby and not guaranteed a minimum amount of work.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is worried that some companies are abusing the contracts and has asked his officials to review the growth of the contracts in both the private and public sectors. Although he is unlikely to ban them, they could be restricted or workers on them given more protection.

Mr Cable, pictured, told The Independent: “In the past decade, there has been a steady rise in the number of zero-hour contracts. For some these can be the right sort of employment contract, giving workers a choice of working patterns. However, for a contract that is now more widely used, we know relatively little about its effect on employers and employees. There has been anecdotal evidence of abuse by certain employers – including in the public sector – of some vulnerable workers at the margins of the labour market.”

The Business Secretary added: “While it’s important our workforce remains flexible, it is equally important that it is treated fairly. This is why I have asked my officials to undertake some work to better understand how this type of contract is working in practice today.”

The Trades Union Congress has called for the contracts to be outlawed, a move that Labour is considering during its wholesale policy rethink. Mr Cable’s officials will consult business groups and unions during the review.

The Conservatives would not support a ban and Mr Cable will not propose one because some workers prefer to be on call and to work only occasionally. He is prepared to look at safeguards, for example how people employed in this way are treated by the benefits system. One option could be higher tax credits to compensate for periods when they are not called in to work.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of “zero-hours workers” has risen from 131,000 to 200,000 since 2007 but the figures are almost certainly an underestimate. Initially, they were introduced in shops, restaurants and hotels but have spread to public services in recent years as public-spending cuts bite. The number in the NHS has risen by a quarter in two years to almost 100,000.

Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer, who has protested over House of Lords staff being put on such contracts, said: “The rapid growth shown in the official figures is probably only the tip of the iceberg. What is really shocking is that people who get not a penny a month don’t show up in the unemployment statistics. A zero-hours contract with zero pay for a month is not really a contract and people on them should count as unemployed.”

The growing political debate over the contracts has echoes of the split between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over proposals to dilute workplace rights by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist and Tory donor who reviewed them for Downing Street.

Mr Beecroft proposed a system called “no-fault dismissal”, which allowed bosses to pay off workers without allowing them to claim unfair dismissal. It won the backing of David Cameron and George Osborne but was blocked by Mr Cable.

Liberal Dem-ocrats accused the Tories  of trying to bring back “Victorian values”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

M&E Construction Planner Solihull

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried