Code of conduct rather than ban needed for zero hours contracts

Posted By Angelo Evangelou

14 March 2014

In a response submitted to the consultation on zero hours contracts (which ended yesterday), The Work Foundation has called upon the Government to develop a ‘code of conduct’ instead of implementing any ban. It suggests that this code needs to be combined with the strategic aim, by Government, to discourage the use of involuntary zero hours contracts which people may be forced into due to a lack of regular work.

The submission’s author, Ian Brinkley, Chief Economist at The Work Foundation, asserts that calls to ban zero hours contracts and exclusivity clauses are misplaced. Either move would result in jobs being re-designated and contracts re-drawn as a form of evasion, and ultimately result in large numbers being reclassified from employees to workers resulting in fewer employment rights.

He also notes that the picture varies in each sector and so any code must be further developed with sectoral bodies as the drivers, deployment, and scale of zero hours contracts differ significantly in the NHS, higher education, social care, and retailing and hospitality.

Commenting on the submission, Ian Brinkley said: “The Government must act now, as a matter of urgency, to improve understanding among employers and employees on how zero hours contracts affect their existing employment rights. If employers want to be free of the obligation to offer regular hours, employees must be safe in the knowledge they are free to turn down work without any fear of recrimination.

“Government must now develop a code of conduct and encourage sectoral bodies to provide more detailed advice, given their use is so varied. Public procurement also has a huge role to play. Departments could do worse than to follow the lead of the Minister for Care, Norman Lamb MP, whose initiative in the care sector now asks providers to link their use to the quality of care which has resulted in good practice across the sector.”

The submission marks the start of a focus by The Work Foundation, over the coming months, to build a picture of insecurity at work in Britain.


Notes to Editors:

1. The report’s author Ian Brinkley is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. The submission is available in full from the press office and will be uploaded to our site post-embargo

3. The table below shows the change, over time, of zero hours contracts and other atypical work in the UK of which The Work Foundation earlier this week said should come with a health warning.

4. Ian Brinkley has previously written a report entitled Flexibility or insecurity? Exploring the rise in zero hours contracts which was released in August last year.

5. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

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Atypical Work In The UK Labour Market 1993-2013

Notes: all figures UK seasonally adjusted, Sept-Nov, except zero hours which is Q4 seasonally unadjusted. *1997, not directly comparable with subsequent ZHC estimates. **2013 estimate not directly comparable as likely to reflect higher levels of reporting by individuals. # assumes two thirds of ZHCs were permanent in each year.

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