Zero-hours workers claim better work/life balance

Workers on zero-hours contracts think the benefits outweigh the negatives, despite calls for them to be banned by campaign groups.

Research from the CIPD of 1,045 employers, in addition to three years worth of responses from employees in its Good Work Index, found zero-hours workers were almost as satisfied (62%) with their jobs as other employees (66%).

Workers on zero-hours contracts also reported having a better work/life balance, being under less stress at work than other workers, and were less likely to report workloads as excessive.

Overall, 45% of zero-hours workers said their work had a positive effect on their mental health compared with just a third (34%) of other workers.

More on zero-hours contracts:

Will zero-hours contracts become the norm?

Boom in zero-hours contracts contributing to high employment

Labour pledges to reform sick pay and ban zero-hours contracts

Controversy often surrounds zero-hours contracts as they help create insecure work for the employees bound to them, leading many calling for them to be banned. 

Martin Tiplady, CEO of Chameleon People Solutions, said employers which abuse zero-hours contracts are part of the reason why the practice has a bad reputation.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "Zero-hours contracts do get a bad press – sometimes unfairly. There are significant benefits to them in certain organisations and where the employer is honourable in their oversight and use.

"The trouble is that a few bad employers have abused them and like most things, they are the ones that get reported and influence others in their value, when actually they are a good employment vehicle.

Pay for zero-hours workers was however on average 6% lower than that of people working on other contracts.

Almost half (48%) of zero-hours employers also said they do not compensate workers for shifts that are cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.

The Living Wage Foundation launched a campaign back in 2019 to tackle insecure work practices.

The scheme aimed to get companies to commit to giving four weeks’ notice of shifts, a contract that accurately reflects hours worked, and a contract with a guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week.

Tiplady added: "If there was an automatic right to translate a zero-hours contract into a more stable arrangement if a firm pattern of work and hours was established, that would be a really good thing. And so too would be a code of conduct that instructs on changes and late notice and the like, that would be good too.

"But let's not view zero-hours as all bad for that most definitely is not the case and nor is it the view of employers who use the contract appropriately and in the spirit in which they were introduced in the first place."

The CIPD suggested government should introduce the right for variable hours workers to request a more stable contract after working for six months, and to make it mandatory for employers to compensate workers for late shift cancellations.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said that an outright ban on zero-hours contracts would be unwise.

He said: "Simply banning zero-hours contracts would disadvantage the majority of those workers for whom they provide genuine two-way flexibility, and in some cases could limit access to employment altogether. The nuanced and mixed picture of both the benefits and downsides of zero-hours contracts set out in our report suggests it is time for a more balanced debate about their place in the labour market.”

“There is also a need to ensure that insecure and low paid workers more broadly benefit from additional financial support by government over the coming months, to help them deal with the cost-of-living crisis.”