While some see it as an exploitation of the shrinking job market, others defend its flexibility and ability to provide opportunities and get ‘a foot in the door’. Zero hour contracts are a discussion whereby every individual circumstance is unique to the single employee and indeed the employer.
Originating in the early 90s from the retail sector, Zero hour agreements remove the Employers obligation to contractually set a number of working hours to an employee .Employees are paid simply for the hours that they were required to work. A Company therefore, can easily vary the size and structure of their workforce on any single day to meet demand. A number of high profile corporations have adopted this employment contract in recent years and have taken criticism for its ever increasing usage.
With the Governments latest call for an immediate review of the contract, employers may be left wondering where they will stand in the future regarding zero hours and employment law. For some, the entire process of recruitment, structure and organisation of employees may have to be amended.
Despite the media storm, the Unions and the pitch-fork wielding mobs, it was an interesting statistic from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) that 38% of those on zero hour contracts described themselves as working full time. This suggests that generally a 40 hour working week was standard for more than 1/3rd of these workers. This is without considering those who view their job as part time which may equally suit them and indeed those who view their position as a flexible working contract with which they can work around other commitments.
Individuals working on these contracts must be paid at least the national minimum wage while working on premises. For sectors such as healthcare or industry that use varying shift patterns – it is against the law to place a zero hour employee ‘on call’ but not pay them for this time if they remain on premises.
As an Employer considering recruiting zero hour employees for the first time, it may be helpful to consider the following individuals;
• Students – often seeking part time employment while they focus on their studies. The flexibility they require can often create a very efficient partnership.
• Retired – Particularly those with experience in the required sectors. They can offer their skills and knowledge and may have fewer commitments, more spare time and this contract could suit them perfectly.
• Interested Individuals –Individuals whom may not meet particular job requirements but show willingness and commitment to learn further. This gives Employers an opportunity to take a closer look at the employee and ascertain whether they could develop the skills and knowledge for a full time position.