· 1 min read · Features

Should Government introduce a ban on zero-hours contracts?


Figures published last month by the Office for National Statistics revealed the number of workers on zero-hours contracts had nearly doubled in 2012 to reach 200,000.

They are obviously popular with employers, but last month Labour MP Andy Burnham said his party should introduce a ban on these types of contracts if it is re-elected. Do you think zero-hours contracts leave workers open to exploitation, or do these kinds of arrangements offer real benefit to both employer and employee?

HR magazine asked two experts if they think zero-hours contracts leave workers open to exploitation, or do these kinds of arragements offer real benefit to both employer and employee?

Today is the thoughts of Mike Williams (pictured), director of people development at DeVere Hotels and Village Urban Resorts:

"Like many organisations in the hospitality sector, De Vere Hotels and Village Urban Resorts offers zero-hours contracts because we believe they can provide many benefits to employee and employers. Such a contract is a genuinely casual arrangement designed for people who have other commitments, for example university students or those with other part-time jobs. Zero-hours contracts allow true flexibility and freedom for the employee.

However, unless managed ethically and robustly, the arrangement could be open to abuse. For organisations like our own, which have seasonal peaks in demand, the first approach should always be to optimise the way the workforce is structured and be diligent about offering a variety of contracted employment options. As an example, part-time contracts work well for us because it is possible to flex up or flex down the hours. It makes no sense to choose zero-hours contracts as the only option.

Permanent staff at companies that avoid zero-hours contracts may find themselves undertaking excessive hours to cover the workload during busy peaks. I know that some organisations can reach a point where they're pressuring their people to do overtime. This is where zero-hours contracts can be of great benefit by allowing a bank of flexible helpers who will come along when they are needed.

I know there is a lot of controversy about these contracts and there will probably be some Government intervention soon; perhaps the introduction of legislation to protect employees from exploitation by less well-organised, less scrupulous employers will follow.

I don't feel there is a need for an outright ban, though; this could become counter-productive with the potential to hinder organisational profitability at a time when companies are looking for as much help to get people into work and to grow as a business."