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Ban on zero-hours contracts would be 'ridiculous', says REC chief exec

Calling for the use of zero-hours contracts to be banned has been labelled as 'ridiculous', by Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) chief executive Kevin Green.

The controversial contracts allow employers to offer people work without any guarantee of hours or pay.

Many politicians and trade union groups have called on the Government to ban the use of them.

Last month business secretary Vince Cable announced a review into their use.

However, speaking to HR magazine, Green said there is nothing "inherently wrong" with zero-hours contracts, provided they are managed properly with good communication between employer and employee.

"Flexible work contracts allow businesses to handle fluctuations in demand and the opportunity to vary the hours they work can be good for people who don't want to commit to a daily 9-to-5 routine," said Green.

"Calling for zero-hours contracts to be banned is ridiculous. It makes as much sense as calling for part-time contracts to be banned.

"In the driving sector, for instance, if all workers were on full-time contracts businesses wouldn't have enough work for all the staff, making the business uncompetitive, it would potentially go under, with the loss of many jobs."

Green also said there is a lot of misunderstanding about how these contracts work.

"Employees on zero-hours contracts have the same statutory rights to holiday pay, sick pay and the national minimum wage as any other employee. It also needs to be debated within the context of the many different ways in which people today are employed," he said.

Providing flexibility

Research published today by the CIPD has found there could be more than one million workers in the UK on zero-hours contracts.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that approximately 250,000 people – less than 1% of those in employment – consider themselves to be on a zero-hour contract. However, the CIPD research suggests this may be an underestimate.

The CIPD research found only 14% of those on such contracts said their employer fails to provide them with sufficient hours each week.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said the assumption that all zero-hours contracts are "bad" and the suggestion of a ban should be "questioned".

"There does need to be a closer look at what is meant by a zero-hours contract, the different forms that they take, and clearer guidance on what good and bad practice in their use looks like," said Cheese.

"If used appropriately, they can provide flexibility for employers and employees and can play a positive role in creating more flexible working opportunities."

He added: "Zero-hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer's responsibilities to its employees."

The CIPD research involved polling 1,000 employers and zero-hours workers and was carried out by YouGov.