The “flexibility” of zero hours contracts allows people on them to earn as much money as they choose, a Government minister has claimed.
Conservative business minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe defended the continuing legality of the contracts during a discussion in parliament .
“Most employers using zero hours contracts value the opportunity and flexibility they offer and individuals on them are able to earn as much or as little as they choose,” she said.
“In the minority of cases where they are not used responsibly, banning exclusivity clauses will free up individuals to secure additional income elsewhere.”
Zero hours contracts are employment contracts that do not guarantee workers on them any hours of work.
The Government has banned ‘exclusivity clauses’ on the contracts that say they can be terminated by an employer if someone has another job.
However, because the contracts do not guarantee any hours, employers can still simply refuse any employee work for any reason.
This means that in practice an employer can still refuse workers future hours if they are not available for work.
She said research had found that the contracts were good for employees’ “work-life balance”.
The minister’s comments echo previous claims by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
He said the contracts should be re-branded as “flexible hours contracts”, saying they were “badly named”.
Labour has described an increase in the number of people registering their employment as zero hours as an “epidemic”.
The Baroness made the comments after a question from Labour peer Baroness Quinn, who asked the Government to look at “the huge problems facing those who seek permanent employment but are simply offered zero hours contracts”.
“They face permanent financial insecurity, are unable to access the housing market and are forced on, off and on benefits, which causes great stress and hardship.” she said.
Additional reporting by PA
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