Yesterday I was on BBC Radio Jersey to talk again about Zero Hours Contracts, their use and abuse. The interview with Matthew Price on the Morning show can be heard here http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p01ph3y0 at 2hr06mins
The interview followed on from the Sunday Politics Hour yesterday, when Deputy Geoff Southern and employer’s employment lawyer Lyndsey Edwards-Thatcher debated their use. It was a useful discussion of the subject at a theoretical level.
What was lacking was statistical evidence and first hand interviews with those on such contracts. The statistical aspect is being dealt with by the States Statistics Department and an extra question to employers on their manpower return about how many people they have on zero hours contracts. The results will be most revealing
The anecdotal evidence is that zero hours contracts are being given by employers to staff instead of fixed term contracts and permanent contracts. Clearly it’s a way to get around the employment law with its rights against unfair dismissal, pension rights, sickness benefits and holiday entitlements. The danger for employers is that though they may think by doing so they are gaining an advantage, however if they operate those contracts with regular shift pattern with regular hours, it will be interpreted by a Court or Tribunal as a contract of employment with associated rights.
The Deputy Chair of the Jersey Employment Tribunal indicated she would be produce a thorough critique of zero hours contracts as to what they are and what they are not. This has yet to appear in a judgment, however there have been a number of cases that have exposed contracts for what they are and struck them down to expose real rights and entitlements.
There is pressure for state regulation of zero hours contracts because it causes havoc for the calculation of income support entitlement. That said they are too useful to employers. Social Security just mops up the mess, topping up people’s incomes to allow them to get by.
The other strategy for reducing their use is for workers to organise, join unions and campaign for better conditions, including pay. Easily said, but it will take a lot of hard work to achieve that level of uninonisation.