“SMEs account for almost two thirds of the jobs in the UK economy so we do need to be cautious about any economic policies that make it difficult for them,” says Wright. “We are all aware of the potentially negative and exploitative aspects of zero hour contracts. But when we are faced with high levels of joblessness, especially among our younger people, we shouldn’t create even more barriers to employment, unless we are sure of the consequences. Zero hour contracts are just one way that many SMEs are able to confront the dilemma of how they manage growth and risk when faced with an uncertain economic future.”
She went on to explain that for any small business, the flexibility to be able to bring in staff when needed, without high or restrictive overheads can be a godsend. Wright adds: “Surely it is better to make use of zero hour contracts in a managed and best practice way, than for SMEs to be forced to shed staff because they realise that they can’t afford them.”
Cause4’s Wright’s advice to SMEs looking to establish a zero hour section to its workforce is to “first be clear on what you need and why (how many hours do you need to fill and when, and will this fit into a pattern of shifts), transparency is key and the two things you need to remember is communication and flexibility… the workforce need to have a contract with terms clearly stated, they should know if there are any future prospects, they need to know their entitlements under the law, they need to be embraced as part of the company, they need to be appreciated”.
In tomorrow’s instalment of the Zero Hour series, we look at Wetherspoons as a case study…