Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee has published an interim report on zero-hours contracts which recommends changes, but states that ‘in the majority of cases’ zero-hours contracts should not be used at all. The release of the interim report was timed to contribute to the Government’s consultation on zero-hours contracts and it is currently analysing feedback to the consultation and will respond ‘in due course’.
The interim report showed:
- 20 per cent of workers on zero-hours contracts are paid less than their permanent equivalents doing the same job;
- 5 per cent are illegally paid less than the national minimum wage;
- thousands of social care workers are illegally denied payment for time spent travelling between appointments;
- 40 per cent receive no notice of employment;
- 6 per cent turn up for work – having paid for childcare, travel etc – to find none available;
- Some Jobcentre Plus staff pressurise job seekers into accepting work with no guaranteed hours and threaten to sanction either the job seeker – if they turned the position down – or the worker – if having accepted it they found insufficient hours were made available and wished to exit the contract and re-sign on.
The interim report states, among other things, that:
- zero-hours contracts should only be used where the employer can objectively justify it;
- workers should be told from the outset of their employment what type of contract they are on;
- the employer should be required to give a minimum period of notice when requesting work under a zero-hour contract and workers should not be punished for turning down offers of work made within that period;
- where workers arrive for work but find none available the employer should compensate them for the inconvenience;
- travel time between appointments should be paid, and pay for zero-hours workers should accurately reflect the number of hours that are worked to fulfil contracted duties.
This report will be unwelcome news to the government, which is not keen to legislate against zero-hours contracts. It believes they make a more flexible workforce and has suggested low-paid workers can challenge their employer in court. With tribunal fees seemingly turning off claimants from bringing claims, trade unions and other organisations supporting employees are likely to say this latter statement is fanciful at best.
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