Zero-hours workers feel excluded finds ACAS Research

Recently released research by ACAS has shown that workers on zero hours contracts feel excluded, and that this represents a challenge to employment relations.

The report brings together recent research in the area with the views of employers and employees who had used the ACAS helpline about zero-hours contracts. It found that workers on the controversial contracts often feel excluded from the sense of security, fairness and trust that is associated with permanent contracts. It also highlighted a lack of transparency over contractual arrangements for zero-hours workers, with many not even knowing they were on such contracts.

Brendan Barber, Chair of ACAS responded to the report, saying "our analysis reveals that many workers on zero hours contracts experience a deep sense of unfairness and mistrust that go beyond the use of exclusivity clauses. A lot of workers on zero hours contracts are afraid of looking for work elsewhere, turning down hours, or questioning their employment rights in case their work is withdrawn or reduced. This deep rooted 'effective exclusivity' can be very damaging to trust and to the employment relationship.”

ACAS have called for new guidance on the use of zero-hours contracts so employers and employees are clear on the arrangements and mutual rights and responsibilities. They’ve raised concerns about the use of exclusivity clauses in such contracts and have called for more research in the area.

Previous research by CIPD showed that workers on zero-hours contracts were no less satisfied with their work than other employees but the Resolution Foundation have shown that zero-hours workers are more likely to be ‘under-employed’ and to be looking for a new job. The increasing prevalence of such contracts has aroused concern. The Government has held a consultation on the issue which closed in March. The Labour party has promised to crack down on zero-hours contracts, saying they would ban exclusivity clauses and give workers the right to a fixed hours contracts after a year.


Last minute talks avert tube strike but dispute rumbles on

A planned three-day walkout by London Underground workers was called off after last-minute talks brokered by ACAS.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union had been due to strike for 72 hours from 9pm on Monday 5th May in a dispute over the closure of ticket offices on London Underground. This followed a 48 hour strike in late April.

The RMT is angry about the closure of ticket offices which they say goes against promises given by the Mayor of London, and would lead to the loss of 960 jobs. London Underground however have insisted there will be no compulsory redundancies and that the changes are a vital part of the modernisation of the tube.

The RMT claimed they had secured ‘real movement and significant progress’ including protecting the pay of their members who might be forced to change roles. Boris Johnson though claimed the cancellation of the strike showed that the union had  ‘finally seen that their tactics aren't working.’

There will be a review of the ‘Fit for the Future’ programme but ticket office closures remain likely. The dispute will therefore rumble on with potential further industrial action over the next few months.


Unemployment at a five-year low as growth accelerates

There was more good economic news as the latest employment figures showed that the number of people out of work in the UK had fallen to a five-year low.

The jobless total fell by 130,000 in the three months to march to a total of 2.2 million according to ONS figures. Youth unemployment and the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance also both fell. The number of people in work rose to a record high of 30.43 million, driven by a large increase in self-employment.

There was more positive news from a CIPD survey of employers which showed an increasing willingness to recruit over the next few months. This was particularly the case among SMEs, leading the CIPD to predict a ‘hiring spree’ among smaller businesses.

Earnings were also up 1.7% on the year before, above the CPI rate of inflation, as the squeeze on incomes showed signs of easing. However, excluding bonuses, earnings only increased by 1.3% and they remained below the higher RPI rate of inflation which factors in housing costs.

Despite the positive figures, some have voiced concern about the steep growth in self-employment. Recent research showed that an increasing number of recently self-employed people would prefer to be an employee.