The suggestion is part of a consultation on zero hours contracts, which comes in response to concerns that employees on zero hours contracts are being exploited. It said the two key areas of concern are exclusivity – where workers are not guaranteed work but cannot work for another employer, and transparency.
Launching the consultation, Secretary of State Vince Cable (pictured) said the contracts are useful for employers: “We believe they have a place in today’s labour market and are not proposing to ban them outright, but we also want to make sure that people are getting a fair deal.”
He said: “A growing number of employers and individuals today are using zero hours contracts. While for many people they offer a welcome flexibility to accommodate childcare or top up monthly earnings, for others it is clear that there has been evidence of abuse around this type of employment which can offer limited employment rights and job security.”
Official figures suggest 250,000 people in the UK are on zero hours contracts, but estimates from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggest the figure could be as high as one million. The CIPD recently released research which suggested zero hours contracts have been unfairly demonised.
Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, said the contracts have helped save jobs in the recession and enable businesses to respond rapidly to new opportunities. “Zero hours contracts offer a choice to those who want flexibility in the hours they work – such as students, parents and carers – and provide a stepping-stone into the jobs market for those most vulnerable to long-term unemployment.”
However, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called for tougher action. She said: “The growth of zero-hours contracts is one of the reasons why so many hard-working people are fearful for their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, in spite of the recovery.
“But while the government has identified some of the problems faced by those with zero job security, it’s desperately short on solutions to curb the use of these contracts. Through the consultation, the TUC and unions will propose tougher action in order to tackle abuse of zero-hours contracts, which can leave people not knowing how much they’ll be earning from one week to the next.”
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