Reaction to the proposals has been mixed. The language used by Mr Miliband remained very emotive, describing zero hour contracts as from another era and looking like "Victorian conditions of work". The proposals are intended to tackle the worst abuses. However, a number of business commentators have suggested that the proposals would reduce the flexibility needed in the modern labour market.
Labour's proposals are based on a review carried out by the former HR Director of Morrisons, Norman Pickavance. They are reported to include:
- Zero hour workers not being required to be available outside contracted hours;
- Zero hour workers being free to work for other employers;
- A right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice;
- A right to request a contract with a minimum amount of work after six months; and
- An automatic right to a fixed-hour contract after 12 months with an employer.
Whether you believe zero hour contracts are a relic of the past, or simply reflective of more modern ways of working, the fact remains that a large number of individuals are engaged on zero hour contracts. How some of these proposals might work in practice will require further thought and more detailed legislation, but it is clear that if Labour does win the next election, they will impose greater restrictions on the use of such contracts. The Government has yet to respond following the consultation it conducted earlier this year on the zero hour contracts, but when it does, we will report further. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the team if you have any queries at all on the use of zero hour contracts within your business.