Opposition leader asks former HR director to run employer consultation
Labour leader Ed Miliband will today announce his party’s plans to crack down on the exploitative use of zero hours contracts.
In a speech to the TUC conference, he will set out proposals designed to give zero hours workers greater rights and place controls on employers who use them to ‘tie in’ workers with no guarantee of when work will be available.
Miliband has also asked former HR director of the supermarket chain Morrisons, Norman Pickavance, to lead an independent consultation with employers and industry bodies on where the contracts work fairly, and where they are being exploited.
Last weekend, the union Unite released figures suggesting that as many as 5.5 million people could be on zero hours contracts – even higher than the CIPD’s recent estimate of around 1 million. The union claimed that employers were using the contracts to avoid granting zero hours staff full employment rights such as sick pay and holiday pay.
Miliband will propose three specific measures to reduce the use of zero hours contracts. Firstly, to ban employers from insisting zero hours staff are available even when there is no guarantee of work. Secondly, to end contracts that require zero hours workers to work exclusively for one business, and finally, to ban the misuse of contracts where employees are actually working regular hours, over a sustained period, but without the same rights or benefits as full-time workers.
Labour will also propose giving those who work on a zero hours contract for a single employer for more than 12 weeks the automatic right to a full-time contract, based on the average time they have worked during the 12 weeks.
At the conference today he will say: “We need flexibility. But we must stop flexibility being used as the excuse for exploitation.
“Of course, there are some kinds of these contracts which are useful. For doctors, or supply teachers at schools, or sometimes, young people working in bars. But you and I know that zero hours contracts have been terribly misused. This kind of exploitation has to stop. We will support those businesses and workers that want to get on in life. But we will ban practices which lead to people being ground down.”
Pickavance is keen to talk to HR professionals, whether they use zero hours contracts or not, to investigate the reasons why they feel their particular contractual arrangements work for them. He is due to present his report in January.
“The best way to cut through all of the confusion [around zero-hours] is for companies to tell us what they’re doing,” he told People Management. “If you have flexibility without fairness you end up with exploitation. Without flexibility, you might have an unproductive environment. We need to find out what it is that will create that balance.”
Pickavance has 25 years’ experience in HR, working in retail, food production, manufacturing and technology. He intends to speak to employers from both the private and public sectors and invites readers to share their experiences of zero hours working.