Zero Hours – Work life balance

Work-life balance
Work-life balance

The survey said just over half of the 456 zero-hours workers it surveyed did not want more hours.

The CIPD said zero-hours contracts, which are widely used in fields including catering, leisure, retail and the public sector, provide flexibility for workers and employers.

Some 38 per cent of those on zero-hours contracts wanted more hours but when compared to the average UK employee, they are just as satisfied with their job. Only 58 per cent of UK employees said there were happy with their work-life balance, compared to 65 per cent of those on zero-hours contracts.

Gerwyn Davies, labour market adviser at the CIPD, says there was a “spike” in the number of firms using zero-hours during the recession but has now stabilised. “It’s always helpful for the peaks and troughs of sectors such as the tourism industry. You have staff for six months and then you don’t need them when the demand falls off. It allows businesses flexibility,” he says. “It also helps people like students who need work during the lengthy summer break. It can be mutually beneficial for employees and employers.”

However, Davies warns businesses that if they use zero-hours incorrectly or irresponsibly it can affect their brand reputation. “That’s the risk if you just have indefinite zero hour contracts with no discussion with the employee about what kind of arrangement will best suit them. Perhaps they might want a permanent contract after two years of service,” he says. “Be responsible and give staff a written copy of the terms and conditions, make sure they aware of their rights. Have that conversation and prevent disillusionment.”

He would like the Government to go further and ensure that staff who have their shifts cancelled at short notice get compensation. “That was an opportunity missed,” he says. “But there is room for improvement elsewhere as well. There are a lot of other atypical short-hours and part-time contracts in workplaces where staff are unsure about the terms and conditions.”

Pickavance says it is largely an ethical issue for businesses. “The widespread use of zero-hours is not inevitable. Businesses have choices about the way they compete, how they organise work and manage their staff to cope with fluctuations in demand,” he says. “Faced with the same issues, the majority of employers choose not to use zero-hours contracts. We have a choice about the sort of economy we want to build – whether to compete on quality with a trained and motivated workforce, or to allow a race to the bottom on wages and skills.”

In tomorrow’s instalment of the Zero Hours series, we take a look at the legislation behind the controversial contracts…