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It is estimated that around 200,000 workers in the UK are currently on zero hour contracts, popular in industries such as health, catering and retail, staff can be left on standby to cover shifts, without ever receiving regular contracted hours.
It is believed that staff on zero-hour contracts are being denied basic employment rights and taken advantage of. Many workers are unaware they are on a zero hours contract, until their hours are unexpectedly cut.
There is now an outcry for some form of regulation to govern zero-hour contracts. At present there are no guidelines to protect workers, and panellists are divided as to the best way to proceed, should there be legal regulations or a voluntary code?
Speaking on behalf of the Government, Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbounrne and Willingdon, said;
“I do think there is a case, if the evidence [zero-hours contracts are being abused] stacks up, for the Government to come up with a good code of practise because potentially it looks like it could be expanding exponentially in certain areas like the NHS, universities and the care sectors. I think it will help employers.”
Vince Cable, business secretary, last month launched a review in to zero-hour contracts. The review will take a closer look at current practises by speaking with unions, employers’ groups, and research organisations. It is hoped that by reviewing the current practises, if there are signs of improper conduct, this can be stamped out with a voluntary code before the need for more drastic regulation is introduced.
Some panellists believe that the review is not in depth enough to reveal anything of value to the Government; however it is a step in the right direction in providing fairer practises for staff working under zero hours contracts