Last week The Guardian discovered that Sports Direct have around 90% of their employers on zero-hour contracts, it was also discovered that Buckingham Palace, Cineworld and the Tate Galleries also employ both summer staff & part time workers on these contracts as well.
Since this was made public there has been a large cry for a review into the use and practice of the zero-hour contract.
Simply put a zero-hour contract entitles the employee to no guaranteed hours per week. In many companies you have to apply for the shifts on a monthly basis when the rota is posted out. You are not eligible for sick pay of holiday pay, and in some industries you are expected to come in when needed within a few hours notice.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of the Unison union, has called for Zero-hour contracts to be made illegal (the Guardian) & Ian Murray pointed out “that staff perform best when you respect them and give them confidence and stability through clear working hours and responsibilities.”(the Guardian)
However I think there is a benefit in the use of ZH-contracts within the events industry.
Unpredictability. Events are not as regular as the hours in a retail shop. They change week by week & are often reliant on the ‘seasons’ of popularity. For example whilst I was working at my placement we did not have a single event throughout January, therefore employing staff on a contact that guarantee hours every week wouldn’t make sense. My job at the moment is on a ZH-contract, I get sent the shifts a month in advance and I then pick the ones I am available to do. Some months are really busy with shifts available everyday & then some months such as July & August have around 5 or 6 across the whole month.
Above is a comment posted in the Museum Association article about ZH-contracts, which also mentions the unpredictability of events.
I understand that ZH-contract do not work in all sectors and I strongly agree that within retail it is shocking that businesses uses these, when they can guarantee the need for staff to work certain hours. But I also understand they do offer flexibility to the employee as in many cases you only work when you can. For many young people this is ideal if they are at University, on an apprenticeship or working on other projects.
I think Chuka Umunna summered it right when saying that even though there can be justifications, in limited circumstances, for the use of zero-hour contract they are currently being abused by employers. (the Guardian)
From my prospective they are benefits to the use of ZH-contracts especially when discussing the events industry & young people, but they are being exploited by businesses when they can guarantee hours each week and I am looking forward to hearing the findings of Vince Cable’s Investigation.
What do you think of zero-hour contacts? Do you agree/disagree with my views – I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to tweet me @imdamnstudent