Are Zero Hour Contracts Ethical

Ellen Grant
• Thursday, 07 January, 2021
• 7 min read

The subject of the zero hours contract' has divided opinion on whether they are ethical and whether businesses need to use them in order to remain competitive. With claims that these types of contracts are exploitative, we take a step back and look at the positives and negatives.

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Some have called for an end to these types of working arrangements and former business secretary Vince Cable has stated his worries about the way they are sometimes exploited. BBC's news has interviewed a number of people that are or have been employed on zero hours to find out how it affects their lives.

This could leave workers struggling to pay bills at the end of the month as they haven’t earned as much as they expected. Some weeks other commitments dictate whether an individual is available to work, so with a job that allows them to pick and choose which shifts to take, they may then decline or accept at very short notice.

It was revealed that a number of councils and government organizations employ people on zerohourcontracts, as well as some large high street outlets. Additionally, it is argued that by utilizing these arrangements, jobs are created that might otherwise not exist and provide an initial route into work for many.

Businesses benefit from being able to manage their wage costs more effectively and, for people like students or parents, they allow for work to fit in around other schedules. When large employers use them indiscriminately, options become limited and people may feel they have to take them through of lack of choice.

Zero hours contracts are helpful for some people seeking to accommodate a conflicting lifestyle, however there is evidence (both statistical and anecdotal) to suggest that many feel they do not always achieve this. For them, self-isolation means a sudden loss of income, often without access to redundancy payments, sick pay or universal credit.

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Research has linked precarious work with poor mental health, rising stress levels, depression and even suicide. They lack even the most basic stability, are unable to gain a foothold in society, and move in and out of jobs that give little meaning to their lives.

By treating staff fairly during challenging times, companies can develop strong relationships with clients, customers, suppliers and business partners. Conscience dictates that corporations and political leaders must accept their responsibility to protect employees against such disasters, including Covid-19.

The ethical considerations of employing people on zero hours contracts have been brought sharply into focus by a raft of media coverage over the past few days. Critics claim that some unscrupulous organizations are not using the contracts in the spirit in which they are intended and are exploiting vulnerable staff and evading their responsibilities.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has also expressed concern about possible abuse of the contracts by employers and has ordered a review into their use. Most forward-looking employers would want, for example, to offer a guaranteed minimum of hours and basic entitlement to benefits such as holiday or sick pay in order to keep staff engaged.

Research has shown that in companies where levels of employee engagement are high, there is a significant increase in areas like innovation, productivity and staff retention. If employees are clear about what level of work is likely to be available, how much is guaranteed and what benefits are on the table, they are able to enter the agreement with realistic expectations there is less likelihood of disillusionment or resentment further down the line.

If nothing else, maybe the growing debate around zero hours contracts will ‘nudge’ the government to look more closely at some of the red tape that still surrounds employment practice, so that companies are more confident about the best way to build flexible workforce that meet their needs without eroding employees rights or falling foul of the law. In Prague in the 16th century, a rabbi created a monster out of clay and called it Golem.

The golem's role was to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attacks, and for a while it did its job well. In the UK, the availability of temporary and part-time work has contributed to labor market flexibility and helped keep the unemployment rate down during the recession.

In addition, such arrangements can help organizations respond to fluctuations in demand, keeping their fixed costs down during quieter periods whilst retaining a skilled employee base for busier periods. The use of these contracts is now widespread, and the Office for National Statistics estimates that nearly half of all big companies in the UK use them.

While it should be applauded that exclusivity clauses (which tie a worker to a single employer without providing a guarantee of any paid hours) are now prohibited, some evidence suggests that employees can still feel trapped into ‘effective exclusivity’, meaning that they are unable to receive the hours of work they need. Sickness and holiday pay should be available on a pro rata basis, either through the agency or the employer.

Ethics and compliance officers need to take a look, not just at the contracts which are being offered to staff, but at the culture which surrounds them. If this kind of flexibility is to continue to work for the benefit of both employers and employees it is crucial that the culture which operates behind it is one of ethics and integrity.

For larger organizations, media reports of the abuse of the workforce through zero hours contracts may cause reputational damage. For smaller and medium-sized organizations, whilst the stories may not make national newspapers, the reputational impact is likely to be similar from local word of mouth.

If abused, zero hours contracts are in danger of becoming the golem which destroys corporate reputations. If an organization does not treat its employees with fairness and respect, whatever their contract, their staff will have little interest in doing business ethically.

For some employees this works well, for example for students and retired people who do not depend on an income but appreciate some cash when it comes. These contracts are often used for weekend work in catering and retail and their use has increased during recessionary years.

These contracts are however (again in August 2012) still lawful and where the bargain properly suits employer and employee; we submit that they are ethical. Therefore, there is continuity of employment for as long as the contract remains in force (even if there is no work).

In this agreement, an employer does not give a benchmark of some hours to the employee neither the employee promises the employer that he will be working for some fixed amount of time. Though the employee signs a contract for his availability at work when required, but he is not entitled for some specific amount of time.

This type of contract is mostly seen in the sectors of hosteling, catering, teaching etc. These types of contracts are very important for people who entitle themselves for part-time jobs or the people who want to prove their expertise in different fields in order to explore different scopes and learn about various sectors (Ashworth-Hayes, 2015).

The zero hour contract also refers to the contract in which the employees are considered a part of the organization, but the employer is not forced to give the minimum amount of work to the employer. If the positive side of zerohourcontracts is considered, then this contract can work wonders for the common public.

Because this contract gives flexibility for the individual to decide which way he wants to spend time. Another advantage for the employers is that they can retain employees who have other dreams to the present job.

In another way, the employer who has hired the employees under zero contract, if gets satisfied with their work, then can turn them into permanent member. And if observed in the opposite way, if the employer does not like the staffs hired, then the employees can be asked to quit, and in this way, disguised unemployment will be removed from the society (Cavity, 2015).

Apart from the job insecurity of the employees, the employees also face the issue of financial instability because at one point of time they are loaded with a lot of work, and they get a large amount of money and when they are out of the work, they are heavy financial crisis. This can be exemplified by, when a poor person goes out for jobs and gets himself hung up in the sector where he is taken for the organization on a temporary basis, in order to make himself an asset, he tries to give his best in spite of less money, but in the later part of time after the employer comes to know about the weakness of the person, he tries to exploit the person for his own advantages and thus tries to get maximum one could get from the individual with minimum salary.

And these types of exploitation force many people below the poverty line. This creates a problem for the employees who are in one company with meager salary ad cannot move to another company with a large amount of salary being offered (YATES, 2015).

Though, this is not officially and judiciary approved by the governments, but the employers use this as a tool both positively i.e. in order to safeguard its secrets and also negatively i.e. in order to harass the employees who are under the employer. This leads to employee harassment and showcase negativism of the zero contract which has been started with a positive note.

One category involved the poor people who want jobs in order to fulfill the basic amenities of life and make their life better in terms of livelihood. And this workforce consists of the young people who are working in order to get money as taking that as a part-time job while studying in other universities (ACAS Team, 2015).

The poor people who become a part of this are highly exploited because of their need of a job. They are made to work for many hours with less amount of pay which is highly unethical.

Moreover, some youngsters who opt for this type of job are exploited in many other ways in exchange for a great future. Moreover, it also possesses the capability to force the families to move below the poverty line and also can put the future of children or young generation at stake if it is used negatively.

Zero -Hours Contracts : The Pros and Cons of the Controversial Work Agreements. PAY 4 USD TO DOWNLOAD×The content must not be available online or in our existing Database to qualify as unique.

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