Benefits and Burdens
Zero hours contracts are favoured by employers for the flexibility they bring – no obligation to provide work to their employees when demand subsides and a consequential saving in wages.
For employees this flexibility can also be a key attraction. Whilst the employer has no obligation to offer work the employee is similarly under no obligation to accept work when it is offered. This is particularly useful for parents, or students who experience significant demand on their time during exam season, and whom it suits to be able to reduce their hours.
The problems arise when employees’ have no consistent expectation of how many hours they may be able to expect to work, and therefore how much they may earn, in a given period. This is a particularly concerning when zero hours contracts include an “exclusivity clause” stating that whilst the employer has no obligation to provide hours to the employee, that employee is also prevented from working for another employer.
It remains to be seen if and how Parliament will choose to deal with the criticisms levied at zero hours contracts, but it seems clear that when utilised correctly and as they are intended to be they can be of benefit to not only employers, but also employees.
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