Zero Hours Contracts – Are We One Step Closer To A Truly Agile Workforce?

imagesCAHIW1UVI believe it can only be  good for UK business that zero hours contracts are being taken seriously and that the pressure on the Government to provide guidelines for employees and employers is growing. The CIPD report following a public consultation has concluded that change is required to ensure the flexibility that can be offered by zero hour contracts benefits both employers and employees.

Flexible working contracts have become increasingly important for many businesses; allowing them to become more agile and competitive and improving employee engagement by giving employees the total flexibility they may need to balance complex home and working lives. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I believe a major issue that needs to be addressed by many organisations is that of making zero hours and other flexible contract employees easier for managers to manage. The way to do this easily is by using workforce management technology that can automate some of the processes needed to track employee attendance and schedule employees according to both business requirements and employee preferences.

Below are the four main recommendations made by the CIPD:

  • The use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts preventing workers from working for another employer should be banned, with a narrow exemption for employers that can demonstrate a compelling business reason, for example, confidentiality or the protection of trade secrets.
  • CIPD recommends that staff on zero hours contracts should, after a minimum period of 12 months service with an employer, have the legal right to request a minimum number of hours per week.  Employers would have to respond positively to the request unless they had a business reason for turning it down.
  • The CIPD believes all workers should be legally entitled to a written copy of their terms and conditions not later than two months in employment (currently under the Employment Rights Act 1996 only employees are entitled to this). This would help provide greater clarity on behalf of both parties on the issue of employment status and the associated employment rights.
  • The CIPD would support the creation of a code of practice setting out for employers and zero hours workers some key principles and guidance on the responsible management of these types of working arrangements.

The full consultation can be downloaded here:

The full report, ‘Zero hours contracts: Myths and reality’ is available to download here:


Zero Hours Contract Debate Rumbles On

ZeroIt looks like the zero hours contract debate will be rumbling on in 2014 according to the Chief Executive of ACAS. In an article published in HR Magazine this month, Anne Sharp welcomes the Government’s decision to institute a 12-week consultation to produce guidelines for employers and employees to help clear up confusion. As ACAS have seen an increasing number of enquiries from employees concerned with changes in their terms of contracts this can only be a good thing. Zero hours can offer flexibility to both employers and employees but with a second reading due in the House of Commons of a Private Members Bill seeking to prohibit zero hours contracts – it is clear that some strong guidelines to protect employees and inform employers are necessary if they are to remain a part of the flexible working toolkit available to maintain the agile workforce required to support economic growth.

The key to ensuring fairness in the workplace is by being able to track and monitor zero hours workers time and attendance and put in place processes and rules that will show employers and employees are getting the best out of this kind of working practice.

I have always maintained that businesses need to be as agile as possible, however a mix of full-time, part-time and the highly flexible zero-hours contract workers are essential to retain talent and ensure business objectives are met. If you want to keep abreast of the zero hours debate you can find out more by visiting the ACAS or the Government websites:

The Big Issue of Work-Life Balance & How An Agile Workforce Will Help UK Recovery

WorkLife BalanceI want to thank everyone who participated in the holiday poll last week; it would appear that I have some very hard-working blog followers. The poll showed that around 45% of respondents don’t take all their leave entitlement – that is 20% higher than the official research which is slightly worrying!

Flexible working, as well as taking time out to enjoy friends and family would probably go a long way to addressing the issue highlighted in a recent survey carried out by, that 66% of UK employees are dissatisfied with their work/life balance with  42% saying that the stress of work affects their home life!  

So it was with some relief I read in the Telegraph this week that a group of 22 senior executives from Britain’s largest organisations, including BT, Ford, ITV, B&Q, BP, Citigroup and Tesco are ready to commit to flexible working for their staff. As you know, flexible working is high on my list of ‘hot topics’ for organisations to consider – not least since I know that it is now easier to manage flexible working practices and that it can bring all kinds of benefits to UK businesses and makes them more competitive.  

It seems that there has finally been a shift away from the long-held business opinion that flexible working is a cost to the organisation or merely an ‘employee perk’. The change of view has been driven, in part, by a McKinsey report, commissioned by the Agile Future Forum (AFF) that found organisations with an agile workforce can cut workforce costs by as much as 13%. This is on top of the benefits of employees that are better engaged with their work.

The AFF, lead by Sir Win Bischoff, Chairman of Lloyds Banking Group and set up 18 months ago to look at transforming traditional working practices with a view to boosting the UK economy,  is  very keen to promote the benefits of an agile workforce. It has laid down some basic principles around flexible working, the first of which is to ensure agile working policies come from the chief executive, not human resources, to ensure they are business-driven. The second is for bosses to fully engage staff so they can understand what will work; some will want to work weekends or evenings or fewer hours, in exchange for flexibility.

It seems now may be a good time to ask the  boss if would be ok to move to a 3-day  week so I could spend more time on the boat – not sure that my request will be granted but I will let you know how I get on. As always I would welcome your thoughts and comments.