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Cable rules out zero-hours ban

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Business secretary Vince Cable has ruled out banning zero-hours contracts, but has launched a consultation on whether there should be a ban on exclusivity clauses.

The 12-week consultation will investigate the use of clauses that allow businesses to stop their employees from boosting their income by getting work elsewhere.

"While for many people they [zero-hours contracts] offer a welcome flexibility to accommodate child care or top up monthly earnings, for others there has been evidence of abuse," Cable said.

"Our consultation will focus on tackling the key concerns that were raised, such as exclusivity clauses and how to provide workers with more protection."

Zero-hours contracts, which offer no guarantee of regular work, have come under criticism over cases of employer abuse, such as pulling shifts from workers with very little notice and penalising workers who are not always available. The use of these contracts are particularly prevalent at universities, colleges, pubs and retailers.

Cable said he wanted to give employees and employers more guidance and advice about the contracts, and added that employers' need for flexible workforces should not be at the expense of fairness and transparency.

Trade union organisation the TUC welcomed the launch of the consultation, but said the Government is "desperately short of solutions" to curb the use of zero-hours contracts, which the CIPD estimates could affect as many as one million workers in the UK.

"The growth of zero-hours contracts is one of the reasons why so many hard-working people are fearful for their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, in spite of the recovery," said TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady.

The British Chambers of Commerce warned that excessive regulation of the contracts could cost jobs. John Wastnage, the chambers head of employment, said: "They can be beneficial for students, older workers or those with caring duties who don't want to be constrained by a fixed contract. And they allow employers to experiment with new services or markets."

Last month, the CIPD published a study that claimed the majority of workers on zero-hours contracts are just as satisfied with their job as full-time employees.