Call to ban zero-hours contracts might be counterproductive, warns CIPD

TUC renews criticism as research finds zero-hours workers endure lower pay and more night shifts

Workers on zero-hour contracts are more than twice as likely to work night shifts than the rest of the workforce, and earn on average £4 less per hour, a study of ONS data has found.

The research, conducted by the TUC, found that night shifts were a usual part of the working pattern of almost a quarter (23 per cent) of workers on zero-hours contracts, compared to just 11 per cent of the rest of the workforce.

It also claimed the median gross hourly pay for zero-hours workers was £7.70, compared to £11.80 for the rest of the workforce, and that zero-hours workers clocked in an average of 25 hours a week, compared to 36 hours for others.

The TUC said one in seven zero-hours workers did not have hours every week.

The figures were based on the ONS Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2018, which sampled 88,705 individuals,

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said regular night work at low pay put the health of zero-hours workers at risk, and renewed calls for such contracts to be banned.

“We need action from the government now to stamp out these exploitative contracts once and for all. The vast majority of people on zero-hours contracts want out. The only flexibility offered to them is what’s good for employers,” she said. 

However, CIPD research conducted in 2015 found 65 per cent of workers on zero-hours contracts were satisfied with their job.  

Jon Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, said the result of a blanket ban on zero-hours contracts would likely be damaging to many workers and could potentially leave some with no other option than to give up work altogether.

“People value the flexibility offered by zero-hours contracts, which allow them to balance work with studying, caring responsibilities and any other commitments or interests they might have,” he said. “However, zero-hours contracts should only be used when there is a clear business need to do so. Employers should also do their best to offer what people on zero hours want in terms of hours worked.”

Julian Pilling, CEO of Solutio UK, said: "There is no data revealing how many workers actually want out. Headlines are being created, but the government has set out its current position, which is a more balanced view of the zero-hours labour market."  

The TUC also called for the introduction of a reasonable notice period for shifts, and payment for cancelled shifts, as well as the enforcement of workers’ rights. 

A government spokesperson said a ban would "impact more people than it would help," since it was an option groups such as students and carers could benefit from. 

“The UK’s flexible labour market has created jobs allowing more people to work. Through the government’s Good Work Plan, we are delivering the biggest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation, ensuring workers have access to the rights and protections they deserve.”