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Most workers happy on zero-hours contracts, says CIPD

The majority of workers on zero-hours contracts are just as satisfied with their job as full-time employees and more likely to be happy with their work-life balance, a major report published today by the CIPD has found.

CIPD said zero-hours contracts, where workers are employed with no guarantee of hours, have been "underestimated", "unfairly demonised" and "oversimplified".

The study of more than 2,500 workers found that where zero-hours are being used for the "right reasons" and "managed in the right way", they are providing flexibility that works for both organisations and individuals.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said anyone who protests against the use of zero-hours contracts is "out of touch" with the modern workplace.

"Flexible working arrangements can have a positive influence on productive and engaging work environments and those who call for excessive restriction of zero-hours contracts or who rail against measures to encourage more flexible working are equally out of touch with the modern world," said Cheese.

He said the contracts could be an effective means of matching the needs and requirements of modern business.

Flexible working

Research earlier this year by the CIPD found that more than one million workers are on zero-hours contracts. This sparked a debate, with some commentators pointing to the economic benefit to business but many claiming zero-hours contracts could lead to the potential exploitation of low-paid workers.

Labour leader Ed Miliband and business secretary Vince Cable have vowed to help crack down on zero-hours contracts, but Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) chief executive Kevin Green has said a ban would be "ridiculous".

The latest CIPD study found zero-hours workers are, on average, nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with having no minimum set contracted hours as they are to be dissatisfied. The most common explanation for this is that flexible working suits their current circumstances.

More than half (52%) of zero-hours workers said they would not like to work more hours than they do in a typical week, and 80% said they are never penalised for not being available for work.

Poor practice

However, the study did identify areas of poor practice. Some employers are not providing written terms and conditions for zero-hours contract staff and a significant proportion of zero-hours workers report having pre-arranged work cancelled with no notice or at the start of the shift.

The study also found there is "significant confusion" among employers and zero-hours workers over employment status and rights.

Cheese said Government and businesses should look at improving management practice and enforcing existing regulation rather than bringing in new legislation, which would be "extremely hard to do without unintended consequences."

"Employers that took part in the research told us that if restrictions were placed on employers' use of zero-hours contracts, they would simply switch to another form of casual labour," said Cheese. "Such an approach would also penalise the majority of zero-hours workers that choose these types of working arrangements."


The CIPD has outlined a number of recommendations to improve practice:

  • Appropriateness: Careful consideration and regular review by employers of whether zero-hours contracts are appropriate for the nature of the work involved
  • Exclusivity: Unless there is a clear business reason, for example for clearly defined competitor or intellectual property reasons, employers should not restrict zero-hours staff from working for another employer when they have no work available.
  • Compensation for last-minute cancellation: Where work is cancelled at short notice, travel expenses and at least one hour's pay should be paid in compensation.
  • Pay equity: Zero-hours workers should be paid at comparable rates to anyone else doing the same or similar work.
  • Manager training: Line managers should be trained to ensure that the reality of the employment relationship is consistent with the contract and associated employment rights of zero-hours workers.