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Vince Cables measured response shows first sign of understanding realities of UK employment market

With the Government’s consultation on the use of zero hours contracts concluding over three months ago before today’s response, which bans the use of exclusivity, Vince Cable has clearly been considering the most appropriate action quite carefully.

However, this has been a costly exercise to reach a common-sense conclusion.

Meridian has long campaigned for a ban on exclusivity, clear guidelines and an ethical code of practice that would allow the industry to self-regulate on the issue of zero-hours contracts and had the Government been more aware of the day-to-day realities of their use, this long process could have been averted.

Detractors in the media and opposing political parties are already criticising the Government for not going far enough, with some calling for an outright ban, but this fundamentally misconstrues the realities of the UK’s modern, flexible workforce. Zero hours contracts, like any and every form of employment, is a good thing if used properly. It is a legitimate way of working in which staff have flexibility without penalty. It has, in many respects, helped to keep the British manufacturing economy going in very tough economic times. 

It has taken Vince Cable a long time to appreciate that these types of contracts are neither good nor bad, but it is how and why they are implemented that should to be assessed and policed, if need be.

The Government’s pledge to “work with unions and business to develop a best practice code of conduct aimed at employers who wish to use zero hours contracts as part of their workforce” is encouraging. Meridian would urge that a wide variety of stakeholders across all markets be consulted, as this complex practice can impact every industry at multiple levels.

Finally, Meridian welcomes the crackdown on abuse of the practice by unscrupulous employers and the promise of efforts to educate employees about zero hours, which should go some way to dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding these contracts.


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