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Moves to tighten up zero-hours contracts

The Government is asking unions and businesses to help close any loopholes in plans to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts.

ian TASKER: Union chief is against public sector use of the contracts.
ian TASKER: Union chief is against public sector use of the contracts.

Ministers said they wanted to discover if "unscrupulous" employers might try to find a way of avoiding the ban by offering just one hour of work.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "We are tightening the screws on rogue employers who try to abuse workers on zero-hours contracts.

"We are looking closely at any potential loopholes that could arise from a ban, to ensure that these are closed off and no one can get round the new law.

"The evidence shows that the vast majority of zero-hours contracts have been used responsibly by businesses for many years, but unfortunately we know that some abuse does take place.

"This is why we are bringing in new laws to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts, which currently stop employees getting other jobs if they need to top up their income."

The Government also announced that business representatives and unions will work together to draw up codes of practice to help guide the fair use of zero-hours contracts.

The Coalition has responded to calls for zero-hours contracts to be outlawed, by planning to ban exclusivity clauses, under which employers prevent people from working for someone else.

A recent study estimated that over 620,000 workers are employed on a zero-hours contract, which do not guarantee work from one week to the next.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "While it's reassuring to see that Vince Cable is determined there should be no loopholes for employers who might try to get around the exclusivity ban when it becomes law this autumn, in truth there is much more the Government should be doing.

"Many new jobs are being created, but far too many are of the zero-hours kind - where workers have no idea from one week to the next how many hours or how much pay they're likely to get.

"This uncertainty means it's hard for people to plan their household budgets and make their money go far enough even to cover their everyday expenses."

Tim Thomas, head of employment policy at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said: "To date the Government has taken a balanced approach to the regulation of zero-hours contracts, which should continue.

"For manufacturers, they provide much-needed workplace flexibility and access to skills while, for workers, they offer well-paid and flexible opportunities."

Meanwhile it has emerged that nearly 8,000 NHS workers in Scotland have zero-hours contracts.

Ian Tasker, assistant secretary of the Scottish TUC, said zero-hours contracts in the public sector should be scrapped.

The Scottish Government said: "These arrangements allow flexiblity."

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