The term “zero-hours contract” refers to an employment contract in which the employee is not guaranteed work, and is paid only for work carried out. Zero-hours workers can be ‘phoned in’ by the employer or even turn up to be told they are not needed that day, as their contract does not stipulate any contracted hours. This means an ultra-flexible workforce for employers, but also a very insecure and potentially uncommitted workforce.
Many popular and high street brand names now make use of zero-hours contracts on a large scale. The Committee heard that across the UK, 83,800 McDonalds staff; 20,000 Burger King staff; approximately 20k Sports Direct staff; 24,000 JD Wetherspoon staff, 4,000 Boots the chemist staff, 16,000 Spirit staff; 20,000 Dominos pizza staff; 200 Tate staff; 600 Subway sandwich staff and 3,600 Cineworld staff are all on such contracts.
USDAW have submitted evidence to the Committee which describes some of the damaging impact of zero-hours contracts. It says that today one in every four businesses employs at least some workers in this way.
Yet their evidence shows that many zero-hours contract workers are working broadly the same number of hours each week. This suggests that these contracts are convenient for employers but not a necessity for the business. The result for workers is insecurity and no guaranteed income. Pay packets can vary from one week to the next. They may also have problems accessing mortgages, loans and renting as it is difficult, if not impossible, to show a secure income.
Workers on zero-hours contracts are not defined as 'employees' and as a result lose out on important employment rights, including:
- Statutory Redundancy Pay
- Statutory Notice Periods
- Unfair Dismissal Rights
- TUPE Rights
- Collective Redundancy Consultation
Ian Davidson, Chair of the Committee, said:
“USDAW unionised businesses like Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's - some of Britain's most successful - do not use zero-hours contracts. Instead flexible contracts have been negotiated that provide workers with guaranteed hours but still deliver the flexibility to meet the demands of the business.
As USDAW says: if Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's can respond to business fluctuations without resorting to zero-hours contracts then why can't many of the businesses that use them?
“This inquiry was sparked by compelling evidence previously given to the Committee by Unite the Union, who were keen to demonstrate the growing extent of the practice. Unite believes that in general zero-hours contracts are unfair, creating insecurity and exploitation for many ordinary people struggling to get by.
We are now pleased to be following this up with the Scottish officials of USDAW in Falkirk to hear concrete examples of the real impact of these contracts and learn more about why businesses use them and what else they could do instead.”
At 2.30pm in Falkirk Town Hall
- Karen Whitefield, Campaigns Officer, USDAW
- Lawrence Wason, Divisional Officer, USDAW