Workers with zero-hours contracts in the North report better work-life balance and wellbeing than other employees, but improved enforcement of employment rights are needed to protect those who are treated unfairly, according to CIPD research.

The professional body for HR and people development has launched a new Zero-hours contracts: Evolution and current status report which highlights the challenges and benefits of zero-hours contracts - where there’s no guaranteed minimum number of hours that must be worked.

Among the positives, the CIPD’s research highlights that zero-hours contracts provide employment opportunities for those who might not otherwise be able to work because they can’t commit to more regular pre-determined working hours due to ill-health, care or studying needs, for example.

However, the report shows challenges persist with ‘one-sided flexibility’ that typically benefits employers rather than workers. It finds that 57% of employers with workers on zero hours contracts give them the right to turn down work in practice, meaning a significant minority are under pressure to take all the hours offered to them. Nearly half (48%) of employers of zero-hours workers also said they do not compensate workers for shifts that are cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.

In response, the CIPD has the following recommendations for Government to enhance the rights of zero-hour contract workers and clampdown on poor employer practice:

  • Introduce a right for variable hours workers to request a more stable contract or working arrangement after they have been employed for six months.
  • Create a statutory code of practice on the responsible management of zero-hours workers that would include the requirement for organisations to compensate workers if their shifts are cancelled with little or no notice.
  • Improve labour market enforcement, including through the creation of a Single Enforcement Body and a much stronger focus on supporting employer compliance.
  • Abolish ‘worker’ status to help clarify and enhance employment rights for many zero-hours contract workers and casual workers more widely.

Daphne Doody-Green, Head of CIPD Northern England said:

"The North has a very large and thriving hospitality and entertainment sector, where zero hours contracts are often used in roles such as bar staff, waiters/waitresses. The care sector also typically relies on zero hours contract workers too. Banning zero hours contracts could disadvantage these workers for whom they provide greater flexibility and a better work-life balance.

"However, this research report highlights the urgent need for the government to enhance the rights of workers with zero hours contracts and clampdown on poor employer practice. Employees should not be put under pressure to accept any hours, or have shifts cancelled with little or no notice, and without compensation. These sorts of practices are unacceptable and we need help from the government to tackle such bad practice."

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