A recent report has found that although zero-hours contracts suit some workers, such as students, they do not work well for a sizeable minority of people.

The report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that there had been little change in the number of zero-hours workers since 2015.
In fact, although they are particularly prevalent in the hospitality and entertainment industries they make up just three per cent of employment rates overall.

The report identified a number of groups who benefit most from the flexibility that the contracts offer. These include students, people with fluctuating health conditions, those with varying and unpredictable caring responsibilities and older workers downshifting towards retirement.

However, the report found that the contracts do not work for a significant minority of people, particularly where the flexibility is one-sided - in favour of the employer. Overall, it found that zero-hours workers were less likely to be satisfied with their contractual arrangement than other workers and were more likely to want more hours.

The research also showed that about half of organisations provided no compensation to zero-hours workers if the employer cancelled shifts at very short notice. In addition, a significant minority of zero-hours employers put pressure on workers to accept work when they offered it to them.

There was evidence that the working patterns of some zero-hours workers varied very little each week in terms of hours and days worked, indicating that it would be easy for the employer to move them to more stable, typical working arrangements and contracts, yet they declined to do so.

Furthermore, the report found that many zero-hours contract workers received little advance notice of their work schedules, creating difficulty for planning their finances as well as managing childcare and other responsibilities.

The report, therefore, recommends that the government should:

  • Introduce a right for variable hours workers to request a more stable contract or working arrangement after they have been employed for six months, a right promised by the government in its much-vaunted employment bill which has yet to see the light of day.
  • Create a statutory code of practice on the responsible management of zero-hours workers that would include the requirement to pay compensation if workers’ shifts are cancelled at short notice.
  • Improve labour market enforcement, including through the creation of a Single Enforcement Body and a stronger focus on supporting employer compliance.
  • Abolish 'worker status' to help clarify and enhance employment rights for zero-hours workers, among others.

To read the report in full, click here