Zero hour contracts

December 2, 2015

As you’ll no doubt have heard endlessly in the news over the last year and especially in the lead up to the election, zero hours contracts are the spawn of the devil! Poor employees “forced” by circumstance to accept work as and when it is offered with no guarantee of fixed or set hours by which they can budget.

Ok – so I am not entirely heartless and I do understand that it must be difficult to live each week not knowing how much income you can bring in, however, at the same time I also understand how additional costs in a business need to be balanced against what you can charge a customer or client.

Whilst good workers could have two or three zero hours contracts (these cannot be made exclusive to one employer) and take as much work as possible to balance out as a full time job, businesses are being forced by government policy to turn everyone into a permanent head. Initially this was with changes to temporary workers, who now become perm after 12 weeks, most recently this was in relation to proposed change to Contractors terms and then with the media stoking up the claims that zero hours are unfair.

Now the theory and rhetoric can sound amazing but what’s the actual reality? Over £24bn per year is spent in the UK on temporary workers, so it’s clear that these “as needed” employees are a key component of the complex workforce we need today. Annoyingly, those who spout about the unjust and unfair terms of zero hours contracts or temporary workers usually don’t actually understand a) how a business works, b) what temporary labour exists and what it means, or c) that these types of workers are essential to a growing, thriving economy – particularly one still in recovery.

So very quickly, I’m hoping this blog will dispel a few myths as to why four different types of workers are needed and why all of them need to be temporary. There are 191 different job categories being advertised currently on the UK’s job boards, all of which can be further sub-divided. With an estimated 16,000 employment agencies operating in the UK the need for various workers is intricate and no one size fits all approach could possibly work (the main one size being everyone is a permanent head!).

Front line staff are needed for a business to deliver its services – they’re the drivers, line workers, receptionists, supply teachers and caterers. Given that there will be various fluctuations of core staff throughout the year, annual leave, sickness, maternity etc, how can a business deliver it’s key services without resorting to a temp or someone on a zero hours contract. With a restaurant for example, you cannot always predict busy and quiet periods, so you need to be able to flex up and flex down as required, otherwise prices will be impacted with waiting staff who need to be paid for but are just waiting for customers!

Back office staff – At some time every business (even micro’s) will probably have used an “administrator” – those people who make stuff happen in a timely, organised and efficient way! They tend to be brought in to accommodate a period of intense work or to “try before you buy” thus ensuring a good organisational fit.

Project based temps do as it says on the tin! They are called into an organisation to help it achieve a particular project and are usually taken on for a finite period of time. These workers frequently bring specialist skills to the party that aren’t relevant to the long term success of the business but are required in order to actually deliver the project. They’re expensive and niche so an organisation normally doesn’t take them on lightly!

Interims are required to temporarily replace someone usually in a management position, particularly if the company failed to get its succession planning house in order! They’re highly paid, highly experienced and usually taken on in extreme emergencies although for longer periods of time where a fuller recruitment process is taking place and someone could potentially have a 6 month notice period!

So – what am I advocating?
I think it’s clear to see that our economy is moving away more and more from firstly, a manufacturing economy into a knowledge based one and this puts good people at the heart of every business, so it’s an employer’s responsibility to support this.

Secondly, the demands of a modern 24/7 lifestyle where everything needs to open, available and supported do not facilitate a normal 9-5pm mentality or job role. Our younger generations are already no longer about work life balance, but work and life blended together as one and our job roles and ability to adapt need to remain the same.

We are an increasingly more diverse, more complex and more challenging society than at any other time in history and our employment practises need to remain fluid and flexible in order to accommodate a more globalised operating environment.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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