Zero-hour contracts: the good, the bad, the context
5th November 2018
With party conference season over for another year, zero-hour contracts are still a key part of many political manifestos. Seeing as this topic clearly isn’t going away any time soon, managers should consider the fairness and effectiveness of these contracts if they wish to avoid receiving negative press. Despite increasing awareness, the labour market is still seeing a rise in zero-hour contracts being offered, particularly within the events and hospitality industry. So what is the big issue surrounding zero–hour contracts and why should we care?
Zero-hour contracts – what are they?
As you may have guessed zero-hour contracts are exactly that, a contract with no guaranteed hours. This means that employers only have to offer work when it’s available. Equally, employees are not obliged to accept any work that is offered to them. Although this is a casual contract, employees are still entitled to annual leave and the minimum wage, the same as regular contracts.
Below is a short animation displaying a few positives and negatives employers and employees face using zero-hour contracts.
(Animation made with Biteable)
Why is this relevant?
Although zero-hour contracts have been used for many years, they’re now becoming a hot topic in the political environment. As part of a 20-point plan for security and equality at work, the Labour party plan to ban zero-hour contracts on their return to power.
Zero-hour contracts have been on the rise over the last five years, suggesting a movement towards a “new norm” of irregular pay and no job security. A recent study by the Resolution Foundation found that three-quarters of workers do not receive the same pay each month. That’s 75% of all workers not receiving a steady monthly income, sadly making this the norm and not the exception.
In addition to the obvious economic drawbacks of zero-hour contracts, there is also research suggesting that they pose a threat to employees’ mental and physical health! Research conducted by the University College London Institute of Education showed young adults on zero-hour contracts are less likely to be in good health with increased chest pains and headaches, and at higher risk of poor mental health when compared to those with stable jobs. If zero-hour contracts continue to flood the job market, the long-term sociological impact could be an increased demand on mental health services and more young people moving to out-of-work sickness benefits.
(Created with Abobe Spark Post)
Are events always going to be reliant on zero-hour contracts?
Due to their seasonal work, the event and hospitality industry are thriving on zero-hour contracts. Events tend to have their core team throughout the year and rely heavily on zero-hour employees to assist on event days when an influx of staff is needed. Stewards, bartenders and waiting staff are just a few examples of the roles that zero-hour employees are used for.
Zero-hour employees, can often lack loyalty, as shown at Finsbury Park Music Festival. Attendees were left in 2-hour long queues due to almost half of the workforce failing to show up.
IOSH carried out a study on zero-hour contract workers within the gig economy and found that these employees were given less protection for their health at work than full time employees. After the survey was carried out, reconsideration from the government banned the exploitation of zero-hour staff, ensuring firms offer holiday and sick pay. Although this is focusing on the gig economy, it is important for event managers to also consider the treatment of their staff.
What can event managers do?
Managers need to recognise how important it is to look after their staff retention. By carrying out regular training, employers can ensure they get the best out of their employees.
There is debate as to whether the issue is with the contract or poor management styles. Excessive regulation of zero-hour contracts won’t resolve the problem, but there are several measures that can be implemented to get the most out of your event staff:
- Communication – send them a welcome message with details about the job role, their point of contact and general expectations
- Information – ensure staff are well informed throughout and have the necessary tools e.g. a site map to direct guests
- Reminders – checking in a couple days before the event to ensure your work force is still available
- Preparation – have some form of a plan B e.g. agency/bank of staff on standby
- Approachable – have a friendly attitude towards your staff, you want to get the best out of them – first impressions count!
Further ways to manage your staff better would be to consider technology, for example the new uTRAC app. This is an app that all zero-hour employees can get on their phone. The app allows instant notifications to be sent regarding available shifts and any detail changes. Such technology can help to close the communication gap between employers and employees.
Looking at the future relationship between the events industry and zero-hour contracts, we want to hear how you are tackling zero-hour contracts!
- How crucial are your zero-hour staff to your events?
- How will you address the issues around zero-hour contracts?
- What experiences do you have with zero-hour contracts?
- How were you treated while on a zero-hour contact?
Please comment and let us know your views.