Leading law firm, Thompson Solicitors, has slammed ‘exploitative’ zero-hours contracts and the coalition government’s “sham” consultation exercise into the use of the controversial employment contracts.
Thompsons Solicitors say zero-hours contracts provide no guarantee of work and can trap people into working for a single employer with ‘exclusivity’ clauses. People trapped on zero-hours contracts have no idea how many hours they will be required to complete. Consequently, employees have no clear indication on how much they will be paid from week to week.
The law firm say the contracts prevent parents from planning family activities, and organising childcare, because zero-hours employees can be called into work at a moments notice on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. This widespread ‘exploitation’ which ‘gives people no choice’ needs to be tackled, say Thompsons.
Thompsons say that government’s consultation into zero-hours contracts ‘proposes no effective solution’, and that employers should be able to achieve flexibility without needing to resort to contracts which seek to ‘exploit’ desperate jobseekers.
Responding to the consultation, Thomsons said that ‘exclusivity clauses’, which prevent zero-hours employees from working elsewhere, should be banned entirely. Not all zero-hours contracts include exclusivity clauses.
They also say that all zero-hours contracts should provide the same ‘basic employment rights’ already included in other contractual arrangements.
Workers should also be able to demand a “traditional contract” after a set period on a zero-hours contract. Thompsons claim that this right could be ‘introduced under the Part-time Workers Directive‘.
Zero-hours employees “on call” should also be protected by existing National Minimum Wage Legislation, which Thompsons say would help discourage employers from exploiting workers.
Thompsons Chief Executive Stephen Cavalier said:
“People on zero hours contracts have no guaranteed income and no certainty of when or whether they will be working. They cannot plan their lives, organise childcare or take on commitments. They are forced to accept zero hours contracts on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. They have no real choice. It is exploitation that needs to be tackled.
“There should be zero tolerance of these exploitative contracts; abuses should be tackled. The government should outlaw zero hours contracts which tie workers to an employer with no guarantee of either work or pay.
“These five measures for reform will put an end to the abuse of zero hours contracts and, if implemented, would be a real signal from the government that they are taking low paid workers and their families seriously.
“There are too many families in the UK living below the poverty line. For the first time, more than half of those in poverty in the UK are working families. Unless urgent action is taken to tackle zero hours contracts, that situation will only get worse.”