Theresa May must protect the rights of zero hour contract workers

Figures published this morning are expected to reveal a rise in zero hour contracts, creating a significant problem for Theresa May

Tom Peck
Thursday 08 September 2016 00:09
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Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

Use of zero hours contracts is expected to be shown to have increased when the official figures are published on Thursday morning, presenting serious challenges to new Prime Minister Theresa May in achieving her vision for Britain she outlined on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street two months ago.

Research by centre left think tank the Resolution Foundation showed that more than two out of three adult contract workers spent more than a year employed on a zero hour contract.

The contracts mean that workers are only paid for the hours they work, and are not guaranteed any hours at all. It means that if restaurants, shops or factories are not busy, staff can be told not to come into work, and receive no pay.

They also receive none or close to none of the rights and security that ordinarily enjoyed by employees.

The foundation argued that legislation should be introduced to give protections for workers who have been on a zero hours contract for over a year who work regular hours.

After considerable public pressure, Sports Direct moved to offer guaranteed hours work for directly employed staff.

Conor D'Arcy, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: "For some, zero hours contracts are symbolic of Britain's job-creating labour market flexibility, while for others they represent the deep insecurity that belies the recent jobs recovery.

"The fact that the use of zero hours contracts has grown - and the Prime Minister has chosen to highlight the issue of job insecurity in her maiden speech - mean that they need far closer, and more measured, scrutiny.

"Banning zero hours contracts outright is a misguided approach that risks penalising those workers, such as some students and those with caring responsibilities, who genuinely prefer the flexibility afforded by them.

"But many workers who are on them want more stability, reliable hours and greater protection. Helping them get this should be a priority of this government."

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