What this government plans to do about zero hours contracts

It's right that exclusivity clauses are banned

Share

Now that Britain is recovering from the recession, attention has shifted from the threat of unemployment to increasing pay and the security of those in work. Zero hours contracts have become a touchstone for those concerned about employment conditions.

Overall the employment position is remarkably positive. A crisis of comparable magnitude in the inter-war period led to unemployment of 20 per cent. Today the unemployment rate is 6.6 per cent, one of the lowest in the developed world. Moreover approximately 2 million new jobs have been created, with new private sector jobs far outstripping public sector job losses.

Around 40 per cent of all new jobs are in self-employment. But over the past two years there have been a million or so new employees, 9 out of 10 of which are in full time jobs. Job satisfaction and overall wellbeing increased between 2004 and 2011 and is comparatively very high by international standards.

For different types of work the proportion of temporary employment is amongst the lowest in the world, well below the EU average (14 per cent). And of part-timers who do not have full time jobs, less than 1 in 5 want one.

Nevertheless, a lot of attention has been given to one group of workers who do not have permanent work but operate on contracts without specified hours. The best and latest figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest 583,000 workers – 4 per cent of the labour force - believe they are in this position and most of these are perfectly satisfied with their situation. But there are differing definitions and figures. Taking all the information together we judge that less than 1 in 20 workers are on zero hours contracts.

Zero hour contracts were very common under the last Labour Government and my predecessors felt that no action was necessary. Then as now, such contracts served the interests not just of employers but of many employees - students, older workers, single parents - who value flexibility, including the right to turn down work at inconvenient times, and the chance to top up their income when they need extra cash.

But there have been numerous complaints that some rogue employers abuse that relationship and are creating a pool of casual, insecure - mostly low paid, low skill - employees. The main concerns are twofold: exclusivity clauses which tie employees to one employer even if no work is available and lack of transparency around the contract leaving individuals unaware of their rights.

I gathered evidence and then launched a consultation last December on corrective action. There were 36,000 responses. Of these, 83 per cent supported a ban on exclusivity clauses. On this basis, the Government has decided to legislate in the Small Business Bill, introduced in Parliament today, to ban exclusivity clauses in contracts which do not guarantee any hours. We shall consult further on how best to tackle avoidance and achieve redress. But legislation can only take us so far and we will work with unions and employees to devise a code of practice on the fair use of zero hours contracts.

As Britain progresses out of deep economic crisis it is right that the workforce benefits from recovery in the form of improved wages and better conditions, alongside improvements in productivity and investment in skills. The steps we propose to take on zero hours contracts are a signal of the Government's commitment to that process.

READ NEXT: The morning catch-up: Obama's ratings, Ryanair HQ and tennis themed puns
Andy Coulson profile: The consummate tabloid hack who went too far
After Coulson, now is the time for robust self-regulation along Leveson lines  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operations and Maintenance Engineer - Solar

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum plus benefits/bonus package: The Green Recruitment C...

Sales and Maketing Director (Designate) , Watford, Hertfordshire

£60- £70K OTE £120k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major multi-million pound lan...

Graduate Web Developer

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Graduate Database Developer (SQL)

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
lowers, candles and other tributes in front of the Netherlands Embassy in memory of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17  

To punish Putin for the MH17 disaster we must boycott Russia 2018

Jack Gilbert
 

The daily catch-up: Joe on Vlad, banks of the Jordan and Blair's radicalism

John Rentoul
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor