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Miliband vows to tackle zero-hours contract 'epidemic'

Opposition leader Ed Miliband will outline proposals to give zero-hours contract workers more rights in a speech later today.

He is due to speak in Motherwell, Scotland after a meeting of the shadow cabinet this morning. Proposals are largely based on the findings of an independent report by former Morrisons HR director Norman Pickavance into zero-hour contracts. 

New rights that would be available to workers on zero-hours contracts under the plans include compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice and being free to work for other employers. A key change is that employers would have to offer employees on zero-hours contracts a fixed-hours contract after 12 months.

Miliband will say the contracts are not compatible with creating "a loyal, skilled and productive workforce". "It has left too many people not knowing how they will make ends meet... and unable to plan for the future," he is due to say.

The Labour leader will warn the Scottish people that if they vote for independence, 90,000 people in the country on zero-hours contracts will find it harder to accrue rights.

He plans to say: "If Scotland left the UK it would be harder to end the abuse of zero-hours contracts either here or in what is left of the UK."

Research author Norman Pickavance accepted that the contracts can be useful for people "approaching retirement or fitting work between studies" but warned that they are "wide open to abuse". 

Skills and Enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said the Government has ordered a review of zero-hours contracts. He added that it is important to "strike a balance" between flexibility for businesses and protection for workers.