Leading recruitment industry thinkers and policy makers have concluded that zero-hours contracts should not be abolished but should instead be administered by an industry Code of Good Practice.
The roundtable event, which was sponsored by the law firm Brabners and hosted by Meridian Business Support, brought together representatives from APSCo, the REC, CIPD, PCG and TUC; academics; employment law experts; and representatives from private sector firms and the media.
Meridian Business Support’s CEO, Mark Mitchell, lamented the “media furore” that surrounded zero-hours contracts last year, which he claimed had made many employers and workers suspicious of them. Zero-hours contracts were, he insisted, an “integral means” of supporting the renowned flexibility and responsiveness of the UK’s labour market.
Implicit in his argument is the fact that it is not only low-paid/low-skilled workers that are engaged on these contracts. Many highly-skilled freelancers in the UK’s professional contracting community, including Umbrella Company Employees, value them as a means of demonstrating flexibility to clients.
Mr Mitchell continued: “In reality, it is not the contracts that should be distrusted but those organisations or intermediaries that abuse them, and we believe that rather than being too bullish about the need for legislation to regulate these contracts, the industry needs to have the necessary dialogue that will result in the collective management our own sector’s issues, including zero-hours contracts.”
The main outcomes of the discussion included the need for a Code of Good Practice, the abolition of exclusivity clauses and the provision by employers of written information fully explaining how the contracts work for all workers engaged on them.