Saturday, November 25, 2017

National Minimum Hours

Office of National Statistics

The 1990's recession saw a new type of employment contract emerge.

This new contract would give the employer maximum flexibility. The "zero hours" contract meant that employees would not have any formal hours but would work as and when required by their employer. Although a legal contract to work they didn't actually provide the employee with guaranteed hours. Nonetheless they were obligated to work with that employer. Some industries made more use of them than others, for example, fast food restaurants. One of the problems is that an employee can be called into work with very little notice, often to cover another's holiday for example. It can be highly unpredictable for the employee. In the current economic situation and indeed during the nineties when they were first popularised, job seekers felt they had little choice but to accept those terms.

Unlike during the nineties the zero hours contracts have regained their popularity in other sectors such as with the NHS and other public sector employers. Some unions are worried about this trend. Although an advocate would argue that there is flexibility both for the employer and employee, it's a lot easier to see the former compared to the latter. When an employee is not offered any work, there is no income, especially given that having this kind of contract prohibits them from applying for benefits. This is why they seem to popularise during difficult job markets when job seekers have less bargaining power.

The disadvantages for employees don't stop with the lack of certainly over how many hours they might work. Clearly, when someone is not at work full time, which is often the case with such contracts, there will be less opportunity for training. This stalls the development of those on these contracts. It also affects how an employee feels about their job as well as their morale. Both these things, in the long run can have a negative effect on personal growth. In addition to the negative effect on the individual, however, we know that a happy employee is generally more productive and more lucrative for an employer than a disengaged, unhappy, low skilled employee.

Due to the many issues surrounding zero hour contracts there is talk for much needed change. It is acknowledged that we have a national minimum wage, so why not have national minimum hours? This could help alleviate some of the associated problems with a zero hours contract and benefit not only the employee but the employer and their clients also.

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