Is Ed miliband right to outlaw ‘zero hour’ contracts?

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Is Ed miliband right to outlaw ‘zero hour’ contracts?

Is Ed miliband right to outlaw ‘zero hour’ contracts?


ith Ed Milliband declaring that the new Labour government will outlaw zero hour contracts, is it right for a work contract which in theory is ideal for many workers to be abolished? The answer is yes, because in practice misuse, exploitation and insecurity have become more associated with zero hour contracts than ‘flexibility’ has. The sad truth is while this type of contract does favour certain professions and people, (supply teachers, doctors, retired), more people are being forced into accepting these working agreements, and more people are living with no guarantee of work or wages each week, leading to an accelerated growth of a subclass of low paid, insecure earners.

Misuse, exploitation and insecurity

One third of the 5.5 million people who are currently on these contracts do not get holiday pay while 77% do not receive sick pay. In addition to this, zero hour contracts currently require an employer to commit exclusively to just one company, despite there being no guarantee of work, thus wage. This means a supply teacher looking for a fixed contract workplace at another school will be seen as disloyal. Len McCluskey, the general secretary of trade union Unite who is not in favour of the contracts, states, “an economy built on the back of insecure work and exploitation will not deliver a sustainable recovery”. I can almost certainly state that people with no fixed wage each week are less comfortable about spending money, and will lead to slower economic recovery.


Indeed the concept of zero hour contracts does provide “useful” working arrangements for many people who wish to have more flexible hours in the workforce, but realistically how many of us are to able voluntarily put ourselves in a position where our pay is not guaranteed? Alternatively, some even use the argument that some work is better than no work believing zero hour contracts have allowed us to avoid higher levels of unemployment, but why should we have to settle or feel grateful for this type of work?
For me, the problem is not to do with the concept of zero hour contracts, I can certainly see the attraction for people (albeit a very small minority of our population) to seek these contracts, my problem is to do with the misuse of this system. Ed miliband fittingly stated that “We need flexibility. But we must stop flexibility being used as the excuse for exploitation”.

With zero hour contracts favouring certain lifestyle types, it can be argued that scrapping them entirely will be detrimental for a number of people, whilst replacing the entire system with more regulated controls would be better as a whole.

What would you do if it were down to you? If your constituency was primarily full of retired doctors or teachers, would you push for keeping the current contracts or would you leave it?

– Samiha Begum

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