Zero hours & temporary contracts – A ‘quick fix’ or will they become the norm?

There has been much debate recently, following the CIPD’s revelation that the figures for zero-hours contracts are much higher than expected and are growing more popular with employers across many areas of the public and private sectors.  A consequence of the tough economic conditions – it looks like they may be here to stay – despite widespread criticism.

Zero Hours ContractsThe findings have prompted investigations from a number of organisations. In June The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started a ‘fact-finding’ mission into the benefits and disadvantages for both employees and employers of zero hours contracts. The Office of Rail Regulation said that the use of zero hours contracts had a negative effect on the attitudes and behaviour of those involved and “was not conducive to a safe railway.” And most recently the Government hosted parliamentary debate into zero hours contracts to explore the issues further.

The future for zero hours contracts is far from certain. The widespread press attention and interest from Government, unions, employment bodies and other organisations means that tighter legislation can only be a matter of time.

Another contentious development that has arisen on the back of the economic downturn has been the increase in the numbers of temporary contracts. An analysis of government statistics reveals that between December 2010 and December 2012 the number of temporary workers increased by 89,000 to 1,650,000 – that’s nearly half (46%) of the total jobs increase. This has given rise to warnings from the TUC that unless steps are taken to encourage better working practices and the creation of quality, permanent jobs; workers will suffer.

Whatever your views on these developments, it looks like these kinds of contracts, which can help give employees and employers flexibility; and have been born out of the necessity to meet the demands of tough economic conditions , are already here and look to become a common feature for the UK workforce.

Despite the pressures on organisations to increase temporary and zero hours contracts, I feel it is important for employers to get the balance right to ensure they keep their employees engaged and productive, as well as meet the fluctuating demands of their business. Managers should think about reviewing the technology they use to manage an effectively balanced workforce of full, part-time and temporary employees to create flexibility and a real competitive advantage to enable them to make the right decisions for long-term success.

I would welcome your views on these developments – has your organisation embraced zero-hours contracts? Have temporary contracts become the norm? What effect do you think these changes will have on the UK workforce?


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