The use of zero-hours contracts by some retailers such as Sports Direct is a growing area of concern. Despite this, some employers still believe that zero-hours contracts can represent a good solution for all concerned and over a million British workers are thought to be employed on such contracts.
While zero-hours contracts have attracted considerable criticism, it is worth noting that they can bring specific benefits for employees. In particular, the flexible working arrangements provided by such contracts can appeal to students who value the choice they are given about when and how much they work because this means they can fit it around their studies. Working parents may also choose to work under such arrangements, simply because the flexibility of the contract means that they can manage their hours to fit around their home circumstances. The other benefit of a zero-hours contract is that it means people in full-time employment elsewhere can potentially supplement their income with a second job.
However, the fact that a growing number of retailers are choosing not to use zero-hours contracts may be an indication of the public concerns now being raised about their use. In most cases, these concerns stem from having workers on ‘standby’ to cover busy trading periods, which may make the system susceptible to abuse.
The other risk to employers is that they may mistakenly believe the contract with the employee is ‘casual’ when it is actually a zero-hours contract. In such cases, the employer may not be aware that the zero-hours contract gives the employee more benefits and employment rights.
What should be looked at is the huge amount of people who are on these zero-hours contracts and do not know they are on them!