Zeroing In

Published on Work & Security

The use of zero hours contracts should be reformed to ensure that flexibility can be maintained and workers’ rights strengthened to help eradicate misuse.

This report makes a number of recommendations that respond to these concerns and seek to strike a better balance, providing protection and choice for workers while ensuring flexibility is maintained for employers. The report also focuses on the special case of care workers.

  • To ensure that individuals who are hired on a zero-hours contract are fully aware of the nature of their contract and associated entitlements, everyone employed on a zero-hours contract should receive a statement of employment particulars. This extends the current right to workers, not just employees.
  • To address significant knowledge gaps among many employers about their obligations under zero-hours contracts, Acas should work with unions and employer representatives to develop a good practice guide. This would start off as non-statutory guidance but could be revised if improvements were not forthcoming.
  • To increase the likelihood that employers who abuse zero-hours contracts are identified and pursued, increased funding and better sharing of information between enforcement agencies should be made available. This would enable more proactive enforcement action rather than simply following up on complaints.
  • To ensure that zero-hours contracts offer flexibility to workers as well as employers, a ban on the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts should be introduced. This would end the practice whereby employers do not offer any guaranteed hours and at the same time prohibit their workers from taking jobs elsewhere.
  • To prevent zero-hours contracts being used to erode employee rights rather than to manage short term fluctuations in demand, staff on zero-hours contracts should have the right to a fixed hours contract after 12 months of employment, provided their weekly pattern of hours worked is relatively consistent. The decision of whether to switch contracts would remain with the worker.
  • There should be a shift from time and task to outcomes-based commissioning to give providers greater flexibility in how they deploy their staff and to improve incentives to focus on the quality of care provided.
  • In light of the Public Services Act and EU Procurement Directive, commissioners are expected to consider the social value of procurement decisions and not focus exclusively on value for money. Workforce terms and conditions should be included within definitions of social value given the local economic significance of improving pay and income security.
  • Local authorities should play a wider role as market managers to support more sustainable local care markets. If providers are able to consolidate activity within a local area, they are better able to offer workers guaranteed hours rather than a zero-hours contract.