Review of zero-hours contracts

A REVIEW of the use of zero-hours contracts is to be carried out following a States decision.

Deputy Geoff Southern. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30842100)
Deputy Geoff Southern. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30842100)

Deputy Geoff Southern lodged a proposition which he said was designed to protect employees from the ‘challenges caused by the increased casualisation of work’.

He said: ‘It is not about banning the use of these contracts. It is about their regulation.’

Deputy Southern accepted an amendment from Social Security Minister Judy Martin which will see the existing law reviewed ‘to ensure measures are available to protect employees from any challenges caused by the use of ‘‘zero-hour’’ contracts’.

It was a good time to have a ‘root and branch’ review of the legislation, said Deputy Martin.

Zero-hours contracts are between an employer and employee in which there are no minimum working hours set by the employer and the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.

When he lodged his proposal, Deputy Southern said there had been a ‘slow but steady erosion’ over the past five years of employment measures, and conditions had worsened in the ‘gig economy’.

Deputy Kirsten Morel said zero-hours contracts were ‘very easily condemned without looking at the other side of the argument’. He did not deny there was abuse of the contracts, but added they were also an ‘excellent way for some people to work’.

Deputy John Young said: ‘There is no question. There is abuse. I believe the abuse is still taking place within the States machinery and as employers we must set an example.’

Responding to Deputy Young, Constable Richard Buchanan said a government review was conducted over the past 12 months of all zero-hours contracts, ‘to ensure they are being properly applied’. He said a number of issues were found, ‘which have been resolved’.

The review, which Members voted for this week, will factor in a definition of zero-hour employment contracts, the prevention of employers requiring zero-hour workers to always be available for work, a right for zero-hour workers to switch to a contract which reflects the normal hours worked, a right to reasonable notice of work schedule, and a right to compensation for shift cancellation or curtailment without reasonable notice.

A debate is set to take place by the end of 2022 on any legislative proposals, should they be recommended.

Members voted unanimously by 40 votes for these parts of the proposal. They also voted that Deputy Martin should bring forward legislation to ban exclusivity clauses by March 2022, by 35 votes to two.

These clauses prevent those on low incomes, such as zero-hours workers, from working for other businesses. Deputy Southern said these workers should be free to work for other employers, calling the clauses ‘unenforceable’ when there was no guarantee of work.

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