The recent suggestion by Labour MP Andy Burnham that his party should ban zero hours contracts if it wins the next election has been criticised as “nonsensical” by REC chief executive Kevin Green.
During an interview with HR magazine, Mr Green took issue with the tendency to characterise all such contracts on the basis of a few badly handled ones. The problem, he said, was not in the contract but in the attitudes of employers and their treatment of their staff.
He continued: “The suggestion from Andy Burnham to ban these sorts of contracts is nonsensical. If this happens, where will they decide to draw the line on all forms of flexible working that play an important role in getting people into work and keeping unemployment much lower than our international competitors? Zero-hours contracts account for less than 1% of the jobs market, so it is important that this issue is kept in perspective. However, they have ensured our businesses can flex their staffing where demand fluctuates.”
Mr Green cited the example of companies employing drivers through zero hours contracts: if all drivers were employed on full-time contracts, he said, these firms would have too little work for them when demand fluctuated downwards and may even risk going under, wiping out all the jobs in the company in the process.
Mr Green insisted that when these contracts are used in a “professional and open” way, they help keep workers in some form of employment during challenging economic conditions.
Umbrella Company Employees will be familiar with responding to employers’ fluctuating business demands and may share Mr Green’s concern about the implications a ban may have for flexible working more generally.