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Taylor declares zero hours contracts can be positive

Kate Palmer

“Zero hours contracts can be a positive part of work-life balance if they offer genuine two-way flexibility,” says Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and the lead reviewer of the Government-commissioned ‘Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices.’ Contributor Kate Palmer, Head of Advisory – Peninsula.

With the number of people employed on zero hours contracts rising to nearly a million, the world of work is rapidly changing. But can these contracts be good for workers as well as employers and the economy?

Taylor spoke about modern working practices at Peninsula’s annual HR and business leaders’ forum in Manchester on Wednesday, and went on to say, “Where zero hours contracts are misused it can undermine security and damage people’s sense of fairness and respect. This is why I have suggested measures to encourage employers to think more carefully about whether they need to use zero and low hours contracts so much.”

Ruling out a ban on zero hours contracts, Taylor said, “I don’t believe there’s one best way of working. Flexibility is a good thing, and most people who work in non-standard ways choose to do so. However, as well as promoting flexibility, the system of rules and incentives must also be fair and realistic in terms of other goals such as a sustainable tax base.”

Kate Palmer, Head of Advisory at Peninsula said, “With uncertainty around the economy and profits harder to come by, businesses are looking to use zero hours contracts to create greater flexibility in their workforce and lower their projected staff costs. By using zero hours workers, employers only pay staff for the hours they need to meet demands.”

Palmer added, “However, employers who use these types of contracts should consider making changes to their internal procedures, to ensure they are moving towards better working practices. To do this, employers should consider how much notice they provide to staff regarding shift changes, payment practices, and ensure workers are given the correct rights.”

Access to employment rights is an increasingly hot topic, as Palmer highlighted from a recent legal case, “Employees who believe they’re not getting the rights they’re entitled to continue to make claims. For example, we’ve seen that the GMB union is taking legal action against Amazon. It’s challenging the classification of its “self-employed” workforce in an attempt to give them rights such as the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay.” The high profile nature of this case could make other companies think very carefully about their treatment of self-employed workers in the future.

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