Zero hours contracts will end, with those who have been employed without guaranteed hours for 12 weeks promised the legal right to a regular employment contract if Labour are voted in to government, Ed Miliband promised in a speech in Yorkshire on Tuesday.
National law firm Doyle Clayton ultimately support the Labour leader’s proposal but feels “the devil will be in the detail” as it raises several concerns about how employers could potentially get round this legislation.
Jessica Corsi, a partner at Doyle Clayton says:
“Ed Miliband’s proposal is interesting and, I dare say, workable – but it is a politician’s promise.
“In fact, the real issue is going to be what “working regularly”, which will lead to the conversion to permanent employment, means. Will it mean one hour a week? That would be terrible for employers. Similarly, if it means 40 hours a week, then employers could easily get around this. In summary, a fair and balanced proposal in theory but, as ever, the devil will be in the detail.”
In his speech this week Miliband said that this Bill to ‘end’ zero hours contracts will be one of his first priorities, taking the opportunity to criticise David Cameron for being “out of touch” with the general public.
Prior to this campaign, Labour’s policy was to allow for zero hours contracts to continue for 12 months before a regular contract was required. Miliband now says that such contracts create “insecurity” that puts workers at risk for the benefit of employers.
Jessica Corsi added:
“It all comes down to what “flexibility” means for employers. It is reported that some lawyers have criticised this proposal as allowing employers to dismiss employees on such contracts just before their employment is converted into permanent employment contracts, but actually employees don’t gain unfair dismissal rights till they have worked continuously for an employer for two years, so employers won’t actually be less free than they are now.
“What it will do is to help ensure that employers focus more carefully on who they need when – for instance, if workers who are drafted in to help with seasonal surges in work, like postal workers, three months seems like a reasonable amount of time to determine whether or not extra staff are needed on a longer term basis.”
John Cridland, director-general at CBI, disagrees. He said:
“The UK’s flexible jobs market has given us an employment rate that is the envy of other countries, so proposals to limit flexible contracts to 12 weeks are wide of the mark.
“Of course action should be taken to tackle abuses, but demonising flexible contracts is playing with the jobs that many firms and many workers value and need.
“These proposals run the risk of a return to day-to-day hiring in parts of the economy, with lower stability for workers and fewer opportunities for people to break out of low pay.”