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Mixed reaction to Miliband's zero-hours contracts plans

Professional bodies representing businesses and employees have given a mixed response to Ed Miliband's plans to crack down on zero-hours contracts.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said the organisation "broadly welcomed" the opposition leader's plans. However, he added a caveat that the plans to introduce an automatic right to fixed hours after 12 months could lead to "red tape" for employers. 

Ian Brinkley, chief economist at The Work Foundation, welcomed "the provisions allowing zero-hours contracts for those who want them". He added this would discourage the use of these contracts for workers who feel they have no choice. 

Kate Shoesmith, head of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), was one of several who pointed to the benefit of zero-hours contracts for employers. "Flexible work is absolutely essential to the success of the UK labour market," she said. 

She added: "There is nothing inherently wrong with zero-hours contracts and most of the examples of bad practice that have come to light are the fault of bad management practices. In fact, research by the CIPD found that workers on zero-hours contracts are happier with their work-life balance than other employees."

However, Norman Pickavance, former Morrisons HR director and author of the report on which Labour's policy is based, told HR magazine a crackdown is necessary to prevent the "flagrant abuse of employees' rights".

He claimed that 50% of UK employers now use zero-hours contracts as part of their organisation's long-term workforce strategy. 

"This is not only detrimental to employees but also businesses," he said. "Employing workers on these contracts and having any sort of employee engagement programme are completely incompatible. I am in no doubt that is this trend continues, employers in the UK will suffer in the long-term."