Zero hours

Workers at the Hovis (Premier Foods) bakery protesting against zero-hours contracts
Image thanks to Lawyer Monthly

Zero hours contracts have had a hard time of late and quite rightly so. They are the scourge of the gig economy with the employer having the upper hand in the relationship with their workers. Turn up and there might be work for you but if not you will just have to go home again without any comeback on the business. They are beyond feudal and place the employee in an impossible and highly unreasonable situation.

It is no wonder that the trades unions have been working hard to eradicate them.

The other day however, I came across an interesting twist on the concept, a reverse zero hours contract where the employee decides whether they can work or not without any firm commitment from the employer other than to pay them for the time they actually work.

This puts things in a different perspective. Admittedly, the business adopting this approach was in the tech industry, normally associated with being progressive and modern, and the workers involved were students studying for a qualification in the business’ field yet the idea is worth developing.

This idea turns zero hours contracts on their head. Rather than turn up and you will get work if there is any, it becomes turn up when you are able to work and you will get some.

It is clear that there is a lot of thinking to do to make this workable for the wider working population and for supporting businesses. What happens if everyone turns up at the same time? What happens if nobody turns up at all? What happens if there is genuinely no work to be done or cash to pay.

The way we approach work is changing rapidly. Perhaps zero hours contracts will have a greater role to play. If so, then the balance between the employer and the employee, or the employee and the employer, needs to be of greater mutual benefit.

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