Scottish Affairs Committee launches new inquiry into Zero-Hours Contracts

11 September 2013

Following on from its evidence session with Unite the Union, the Scottish Affairs Committee has today decided to launch an inquiry into Zero-Hours Contracts in Scotland. The Committee is concerned about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts and is hoping to hear from a wide range of people who may be affected by, or interested in, this important issue.

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.
Today (11 Sep) the Committee heard compelling evidence from Unite the Union, who were keen to demonstrate the growing extent of the practice. Unite the Union believes that in general zero-hours contracts are unfair, creating insecurity and exploitation for many ordinary people struggling to get by.

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.
Ian Davidson MP said:

“We would very much like to hear from people who have direct experience of zero-hours contracts, so the Committee has launched a consultation seeking evidence from those either currently on or previously on zero-hours contracts. For people who are on such contracts who contact us, all personal information will be redacted from any evidence we publish to illustrate the impact of living and working on zero-hours.
“Anyone wishing to submit evidence can do so via the Scottish Affairs Committee website.”

The Committee is especially interested in the following questions:

  • How widespread are zero hours contracts in Scotland?
  • In which sectors or areas are zero hours contracts especially common?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of these contracts for (a) employers and (b) workers?
  • What is the practical effect of zero hours contracts on the workers who are contracted, and on other employees?
  • Are zero hours contracts affecting workers in Scotland disproportionately, for instance because of distances travelled or patterns of employment?
  • Are zero hours contracts replacing agency work? What is the difference between them for the worker?
  • Are people who are on zero hours contracts, and employers who use them, aware of their obligations and their rights?
  • What support is available to people negatively affected by zero hours contracts?
  • Under a zero hours contract, a worker should be able to turn down work; is this possible for workers to do in practice?
  • Are benefit claimants obliged to accept zero hours contracts?
  • Are there any other types of contracts or employment arrangements that are a cause for concern?

The Committee will subsequently hold formal evidence sessions.

Please Note:

As part of a scheme to encourage paperless working and to maximise efficiency, the Committee is piloting a new web portal for online submissions of written evidence. Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via the Scottish Affairs Committee website

Please click the link below:

Further information:

Guide for witnesses (PDF PDF 431 KB)Opens in a new window

Provides detailed guidance for individuals and organisations giving written or oral evidence to a House of Commons select committee.

Image: iStockphoto

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