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During the Liberal Democrat conference this Autumn, Business Secretary, Vince Cable, announced his decision to launch a consultation on zero hours contracts later this year. His particular concern was related to the so called “abuse” of workers subject to these working arrangements.  These comments followed a review by officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the growth of the use of the contracts which highlighted four key areas of concern:

Exclusivity. Employees are not guaranteed a minimum number of hours and are prevented from working for other employers.

Transparency. There is no legal definition for zero hours contracts and no clarity that it may cover a number of working arrangements.

Uncertainty of earnings.

Balance of power in employment relationship. Many employees felt that they would be penalised if they do not accept the hours offered by the employer.

In support of the contract, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said: “The last thing that the jobs market needs is more regulation, which adds cost and complexity to employment, creates uncertainty for employers and could slow the pace of economic recovery.”

The fact is that zero hours contracts are on the increase in today’s labour market. They are a means of ensuring flexibility between work force and demand. Legal challenges are being brought against those perceived abuses but it must be remembered they can, if used fairly, also offer flexibility to workers as well as employers. The key is making sure the relationship is managed openly and without hidden agendas with clear communication between the parties to the contract.

For further advice contact Amanda Finn at