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Who are the real winners and losers in zero-hours contracts Ask Networkers International?

Who are the real winners and losers in zero-hours contracts Ask Networkers International?

Unless you’ve been walking around with your fingers in your ears, you will definitely have heard about zero-hours contracts recently. Reports have been in the news that some of the UK’s biggest companies employ a large proportion of their part time staff on these types of agreements. And with an estimated 1 million people currently employed this way in the UK, according to a recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey, opinions are divided both for and against.

But if zero-hours contracts are such a bad thing, why are big businesses employing so many people this way? And why are people signing up to them?

This has got me thinking about the pros and cons for both employers and employees and who comes out best.

Pro – workers have more flexibility and can pick up shifts quickly

Not having to commit to a certain amount of hours on a certain day every week does give employees the opportunity to fit work around other commitments – such as studying or family. Students and busy parents may find it a better alternative to having to turn job offers down as they can’t work the hours available.

Con – but they have no guarantee of regular work

It goes without saying though that if there aren’t guaranteed shifts available, regular works will be hard to come by. A classic example is the employee who works 40 hours one week but then has no work the week after. It might be ideal for a company that has a quiet week, but it doesn’t offer a great deal of interest to the family who have to struggle to pay their bills.

Pro – businesses only pay for employees when they need to

With the economy the way it is, it’s understandable that some employers are cautious about taking on permanent staff, especially if they struggle for business or suffer from long quiet periods. Having staff on zero-hours contracts allows them to keep staff levels manageable when they need them, helping to prevent being over staffed during certain times of the week.

Con – staff can feel & lsquo;disposable’ and could be less loyal as a result

The danger of only offering shifts to employees during busy periods without making them a permanent member of the team, can lead to staff seeing themselves as disposable. While it’s true that they are there to do a job, knowing that they don’t have the same benefits as full-time staff can possibly lead to resentment.

Pro – it can be a stepping stone for future work or a way to get back into employment

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have been out of work, you’ll know how difficult it can be to secure a new job with gaps on your CV. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the long-term unemployed face a stigma that keeps them from finding jobs.  In this case, a zero-hours contract can help as it offers flexibility, a way to learn new skills and when it comes to looking for your next role, you are in a much stronger position, thanks to your employment status.

Con – harder to get a mortgage/rent or arrange other applications

Another big issue in the news is that some employees are finding it hard to rent accommodation due to the fact their contact doesn’t specify their working hours. Landlords don’t want to take the risk that their tenants can’t afford rent every month. This is an important issue that has already got Vince Cable, business secretary, voicing concerns that there is some exploitation of employees on zero-hours contracts.

The debate around zero-hours contracts isn’t over yet, but I think it’s clear that there are pros and cons for both parties involved. The question is which outweighs the other? 

Scott Simons is Director of Global Recruitment Services at Networkers International PLC. Based in Covent Garden, London, Scott has over 14 Years’ experience in the recruitment sector.

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