Zero-hour contracts: the good, the bad, the context


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 zerohour 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.

Comments

James says:

I used to work as a waiter while at college. I found my zero hour contract to be very beneficial as i could fit my college work around my job. Although only part time, i was treated equally alongside the full time staff.

From my experience, a zero hour contract worked while in education. Once i had finished college, i needed something more permanent, i needed a consistent pay check with financial security that a zero hour contract wouldn’t have given me.

For me it can depend on what stage of life you are at, so i am both for and against zero hour contracts with the sole responsibility being upon the employee to determine what type of work they want.

eventemployment says:

Hi James,
Thank you for sharing your experience with us, it’s good to hear that being on a zero-hour contract worked well for you whilst at college. Unfortunately a lot of people on zero-hour contracts don’t necessarily know that their contracts offer no guaranteed hours, how do you feel about this? Should the onus be on employer to make it clear or the employee to understand the contract before signing? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

James says:

Thank you for your response.

I was not made aware that I was not guaranteed working hours. I was lucky enough to be given regular, weekly shifts that was discussed upon employment, something that my employers stuck to well.

Both parties should work in collaboration so the employer can get the most out of the employee and vice versa. This should be addressed before any contract is signed

eventemployment says:

It sounds like you were fortunate to have an employer that gave you regular work. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 6% of people on zero-hour contracts were not notified until the start of their shift that there was no work for them that day. What are your views on this and did anything similar ever happen to you?

John says:

The point made by James on life stage is really important. There will be times in people’s lives where they rely on flexibility as much as the employer so surely zero hours contracts work in those circumstances. As you go through different life stages with increasing family and financial responsibilities quite likely, consistent income and predictable patterns of life and work are valued increasingly. As a shift worker I knew (even if I didn’t like) the hours I was working over a predictable cycle. When I later employed part time staff (not on zero hours) I looked after them and tried to distribute hours equitably – the more predictable the service demands the more likely the manager can plan and offer set hours contracts, but the reality is for some those set hours won’t fit their non-standard personal life commitments and expectations. Venues used regularly should be able to plan HR needs effectively and offer fixed or minimum hours contracts, but events in different places at different times couldn’t reasonably be expected to do the same. There really isn’t a one size fits all solution. The most important aspect is (as has been pointed out already) the development of a relationship with staff as far as possible to generate loyalty and commitment.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for joining in with our discussion John!
Indeed, zero hour contracts can definitely depend on each life stages of the individual. The zero hour contracts can work, however it can only work if there is clear communication between the employer and employee to determine clear terms and conditions. Often if the communication is poor, there will be less predictable hours for each member and little routine. This can be difficult if the young person is in higher education, as there is likely they have more free time but will end up with little working hours. Employers have began to employ part time employees but will cap their hours to 6 or 12, so there is still more routine around their working schedule. With events, because they are so unpredictable and can often come in at last minute, it is difficult for managers to plan their staff within enough time. How could managers help to plan their zero hour staff better to ensure more of a routine and support for employees? The zero hour contract can definitely suit some businesses rather than others, and should be used at their discretion. How could employers ensure their is more support for their employees within the events industry?

Luke says:

I think in relation to age Zero hours contracts are of key importance. To a younger worker it would be beneficial for them to have this due to the flexibility of the hours you can have but from personal experience that can be exploited by employers. This happened in one of my early jobs where my managers would exploit the rules and laws of the zero hours contracts as a way of getting extra hours out of me whilst still paying minimum wage. In contrast, for older people, zero hour contracts are not useful or beneficial in any aspect as they can be exploited for their age in a similar way to younger people. Zero hour contracts are something the conservatives have never managed to truly fix, even being on their non costed manifesto. Labour on the other hand have promised to change the law and eventually make it beneficial for all generations. Zero hours contracts can only be changed by effectively transitioning those in power from someone working for the upper/middle classes to a party that works for all no matter their social, cultural and racial background.

eventemployment says:

Thanks for the comment Luke!
Zero hour contracts can definitely work for various individuals at different stages of their life, especially for young people in education, as the flexibility can work for so many. You say that zero hour contracts do not work for adult life, but could it work for those in vulnerable positions? Many people have experienced exploitation whilst on zero hour contracts, for example being paid national minimum wage and being forced to work extra long hours because of cheap labour. Conservative party has definitely increased the number of jobs, but many of these have been zero hour contract jobs, therefore people have tended to avoid them. With the Labour party wanting to ban this type of contract all together, how can the events and hospitality industry run without their zero hour staff effectively? Is there another type of employment for event staff that could work – such as a temporary contract? Indeed, the use of contracts are very much at the discretion of each individual and the organisations, however should this mean banning them all together to avoid all issues or will it cause more for the companies?

Ali Hunt says:

Briefly,
I do not believe in Zero Hours contracts. I work as Head of Fundraising for my local Hospice and have to raise around £1.5M a year. In my 20 years experience organisations can make huge savings ironically by investing in staff. By neuturing staff and developing their skills and experience you can foster a talented hard working, reliable, trustworthy team who remain loyal to their employer. There is a lot that can be achieved by continuity in a team, as employees grow in both confidence and skills.This also saves in the cost of recruitment. I know that the team I work with would all undertake, if asked, additional unpaid, hours to ensure a job is completed. I would of course offer Time off in lieu. If respect is mutual it is in the employers interests to ensure that the employee is rewarded in their work. In my opinion Zero Rate contracts are a false economy and very short sighted and in the long run do no favours for anyone.
Ali

eventemployment says:

Hi Ali,
Thank you for your comment, we completely agree with you that to get the best out of your staff they need to be nurtured and rewarded by the employer. Some smaller organisations are not able to pay a big enough team all year round and so rely on zero-hour contracts to be able to alter the size of their workforce according to the demand on their business, what is your opinion on the use of zero-hour contracts in this way?

Gerard Fawcitt says:

I agree with all Ali’s points as above, except to say that if it suits an individual going in their eyes open to all the limitations that zero contracts offer, but pick on the positives that it gives an individual, so be it.
But I broadly agree that zero contracts are not generally in the interest of the employee.
Back in the day, there were -and probably still are- temp agencies where conditions are favourable to employees (if not to companies!)
That apart, a superb overview I think of the zero contracts situation.

eventemployment says:

Hi Gerard,
Thank you for commenting. Depending on an individual’s circumstances, then employment on a zero-hour contract may be the best for them. At the Labour Party Conference in September, they made it clear that zero-hour contracts would be abolished should they return to power, how do you think this would impact the workforce and do you think it would be a positive step forward? We’re glad you like the blog and hope you can share more of your thoughts with us!

tina ROGERS says:

If you have a zero hour contract then you should be paid the living wage rate at least. It can be beneficial to some people. As long as you know going in that you are on a zero hour contract.

eventemployment says:

Hi Tina,
Thank you for leaving your comment. Many zero-hour employees are not aware that they are entitled to many of the same rights as full-time member of staff, such as annual leave, the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage, with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health stating 43% of zero-hour workers going without a paid holiday. How do you think this information imbalance should be addressed?

Michelle Ramsey says:

Zero hour contracts are beneficial to those who want flexibility, both to the employer and employee. It would be hard to manage the peaks and troughs of the hospitality/event industry without them. A number of our members use them and very successfully. Providing the contracts are explained at the outset it is up to an individual as to whether they wish to sign up to these terms and conditions and equally whether an employer wants to offer them.

eventemployment says:

Hi Michelle,
Thank you for your comment. Altering the size of the workforce allows many businesses to stay afloat when business is slow, but where does that leave the staff? The unpredictable nature of events means managers can’t always guarantee work, but is there an opportunity for staff on event days to be contracted for a minimum number of hours to provide some security? Please let us know what you think.

Chantel A. says:

I’ve seen freelancers used a lot within the event industry. I certainly think that this is a potential resolution to poor service within the event industry as they are often well informed and fully briefed. A lot of events companies can’t afford a lot of full time staff as you rightly highlighted, but is this because we are not investing enough in our human resources?

For more simple tasks such as human sign-posting for example, I think zero hours contracts work great as an embellishment for students alongside their study. Experience is everything!!

eventemployment says:

Hi Chantel,
Thank you for commenting. It is often the case that freelance staff have more industry experience, however they still require some form of training and often at a bigger expense to the event and the organisation. You’ve raised a great point about investing in HR – what do you think HR managers in event businesses should do to ensure all their staff are motivated and satisfied by their work? We agree that gaining experience is key, but should that come at the expense of financial security and set working hours?

Jess says:

I’ve worked in a zero hours contract for 6 months in the hospitality sector, which was fine for me because I knew it was short term. Interestingly I was always offered full time hours & I was expected to do full time hours. In this case the employer had more power, because if I said no to hours, they could stop giving me hours. It’s far more easy to phase out employees by giving them less hours in a zero hour contract than it is to fire an employee. As a result it really is a bad deal for people looking for employment. And in this situation, since they had full-time work available, it’s pretty unforgivable not to offer a more regular contract. As a result I didn’t have the same loyalty to the company and found it easy to leave.

I have friends who have events all over the south west of England. They find it hard to have staff for just one-off events in certain areas. As a start up company they can’t afford permanent staff or an agency. Perhaps to use zero-hour contracts you should have to prove need?

eventemployment says:

Hi Jess,
Thank you for your comment, you raise a really interesting point about businesses having prove that zero-hour contracts are the only type of employment they can offer, what sort of measures do you think could be used to regulate this? It sounds like the organisation you worked didn’t want to commit you to a fixed contract with set hours, even for a short time. In your experience were you treated differently to employees not on zero-hour contracts? If you had been on a regular hours contract, how would that have affected your loyalty to the organisation?

Lizzie A. says:

Working for a small events business, our casual staff are key. A lot of our staff are still in education, so are able to pick up shifts as it suits them around their college or university timetables. When the unis/colleges break up for summer and Christmas, this tends to coincide with our busier periods, so many of them are able to pick up full time hours in busy periods, ready for the term ahead.

We invest in training our casual staff, and our core training scheme offers cash incentives so once staff meet certain criteria, there is the potential to earn much more than the hourly minimum wage. We also have development schemes for our staff to become supervisors, with the opportunity to earn even more, meaning that staff retention is fairly good.

As you say, communication, providing necessary information, giving reminders, preparing a plan B, and approachability are all key in effectively managing our casual staff.

eventemployment says:

Hi Lizzie,
Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s great to hear that you’re giving many young people the opportunity to gain experience and develop their skills, but what, if any, are the implications on the workforce as a result of this? Have there been struggles to find casual staff outside of the business’ busier periods? It sounds like the business invests a lot of money employee development and as a result the business sees good retention rates, is this also the case for your casual staff? How long do casual staff have to be associated with the business before they can receive incentives?

David says:

In today’s virtual business world they are an integral part of smart business models that benefit both parties if implementation is done correctly for the benefit of both employers and employees.

eventemployment says:

Hi David,
Thanks for your comment. When used correctly, zero-hour contracts can be very beneficial to both parties, as you’ve highlighted, however poor management styles and inconsistent application give these contracts on the whole a bad reputation. How well do you think an organisation would operate with staff on permanent part-time contracts rather than zero-hours?

John Lannon says:

An interesting topic. Is there a balance between employer and employee? Could annual hours be better for staff, rather than zero hours? Communication and openess are key, aren’t they?

eventemployment says:

Hi John,
Thanks for commenting on our blog. The guidance provided by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy recommends that contracts should be unambiguous so the implications of this type of contract is clear to the individual. Employers should give as much notice as possible when cancelling work and make themselves aware of other responsibilities their employees may have, while employees should know what employment rights they are entitled to, to ensure all communication about the work is clear and as considerate as possible.
Annual hours would provide some security with regular shift work, however a selected number of hours are often left unallocated to be called upon at short notice, still leaving a margin for concern, especially if the contract is nearing an end and there a hours still left to be worked.
As you said, communication and openness are absolutely key to the successful use of zero-hour contracts in any industry. What experiences do you have with zero-hour contracts in the events industry?

Chloe Baugh says:

This was a really interesting read and such a current ongoing issue in this industry!
I can see the negatives of zero hour contracts in terms of financial stability for employees, however i think realistically in the events and hospitality industry the need for casual workers who can work flexible hours, as and when required are essential. I have worked in hospitality for a couple of years now, the company I work for no longer use zero hour contracts, instead contracted hours have to be made up over a six week period, for example if someone is contracted 10 hours a week, as long as over the 6 weeks they work an average of 10 hours a week, the terms of the contract are met. I wonder whether this is something that could be used for events, may help cover hours over busy periods compared with quieter times when there isn’t a need for as many staff to work? Definitely agree that management would affect how well this works however, almost anything can work if managed respectfully and with the employee involved, informed and considered. Although it can be frustrating having such unreliable/irregular hours, if the employee is aware of this from the start, i don’t feel they then can really complain!

eventemployment says:

Hi Chloe,
Thank you for your comment, glad you liked the blog! We also think that casual staff are a key part of the event workforce, but due to the issues we outlined above, something may need to change. One way of providing the employee with more stability would be, as you suggested, to introduce part-time fixed contracts. Although this may be an alternative, it is by no means a solution. Managers would have to be strategic in how many hours they offer to ensure all activity is appropriately staffed over the outlined time period. For example, if employees are on a set number of hours and the work is not available for them due to it being a quieter period in the events calendar, the manager will be in breach of contract for not fulfilling the contracted hours.
What are your view on Labour`s plan to abolish zero-hour contracts? How do you think this will impact the events industry?

Sue Johnston says:

Hi, good article on a pertinent issue. I have worked part time for several years now, but never on zero hours. I find part time very convenient and (I’m geting towards the end of my working life) would definitely consider zero hours once I retire. However, for younger people without the fall back of a pension, I just can’t see how this can work. Rent isn’t felxible – you can’t pay less rent because you worked less hours! Lots of living costs are fixed and I guess it is the variables (like food and heat) that have to suffer.
Conversely, having owned our own gyms, flexibility of employment is a great asset. We never employed anyone on zero hours, always feeling we should commit a minimum number of hours to them in return for, hopefully, greater loyalty. But that did mean that we sometimes paid staff to do very little. Not great for the business but better for our conscience!

eventemployment says:

Hi Sue, thank you for taking the time to read our blog and share your views on the subject!
Indeed, working part time is very convenient and works well for a lot of people – you are contracted a guaranteed number of hours which offers financial stability each month for food and rent as you mentioned. This is unfortunately not the case for those working on zero-hour contracts, although 66% of staff are working part time hours this does not necessarily mean it is the same number of hours and income each month.
As mentioned with your own business, often through quieter times it is not feasible to pay staff but it is also not feasible to leave staff with lesser or no hours. Do you think there is a happy medium that can be reached between employer and employee that supports both needs?

Olivia says:

Interesting read, thanks for sharing!
Having worked in a range of zero hours contracts and managed staff that also do, I do think they are imperative to the success of some companies, especially seasonal event work.
Although, I am interested to hear more about the other side of the zero hours contracts- we always hear about employers giving no, or very few shifts in a week, but what about when employees want to only accept one shift this week, but 6 next?
I think that this a grey area in the discussion and can make the employees seem non- committal, but fundamentally these contracts need to work on both sides in order to be deemed a true success.
For the events industry, I think they need to adapt these types of contracts and continue to grow as the industry does- with a recent rise in part- time hours acceptance, paternity leave and the gender pay gap narrowing, maybe it’s time that zero hour contracts become a truly viable option for more than just a few?

eventemployment says:

Hi Olivia, thank you for your comment and glad you found it an interesting read!
Indeed, the events industry often rely on this type of contact to keep them afloat throughout the quieter times in the year. You make a very good point about staff that accept an inconsistent shift pattern. As mentioned, this may be a more grey area but the contact works both ways – employees are not obliged to accept every shift that is offered to them which is often a selling point for many employees. Staff on these contracts also report to have little or no loyalty towards the organisation they are working for as they do not feel an integral part of the workforce. Likewise for managers, these contacts may produce an unreliable workforce, but if guaranteed staff numbers are needed for a season would it not be beneficial to both parties to have a contact of expected hours over a time period? From your experience managing staff on these contracts at events – have you ever had staff fail to show up? If so, what was the reaction and how were you able to manage this? Would love to here your thoughts!

Liz says:

On the whole, I believe zero hour contracts should not be offered in the UK. Understanding that there are some benefits to this type of contract such as flexibility for the employee and allowing employers to have staff available on demand, it is an unreliable source of income for both parties. For the employee, this is because of the irregular pay which can be a problem for those looking to attain a mortgage/loan or if they are already a homeowner and need to pay a fixed rent or monthly mortgage instalments. As you state above, this can clearly result in a decline to mental health as such employees may live in fear of not being able to pay their debts. For the employer, they can struggle to create a disciplined working environment owing to the fact that their staff are not legally obliged to turn up to work during the hours needed. This therefore results in an unstable business which may not be able to operate or generate the required profits in the absence of secure terms and conditions for employees.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for your response Liz!
There are both positives and negatives for both parties involved with zero-hour contracts as you have discussed. The irregular pay is often the biggest concern for employees, however as suggested, if Labour do gain power and implement the ban how do you think this will effect event companies that rely on zero-hour contracts as part of their workforce? Agreed, you have mentioned that the discipline of staff failing show up for a shift is also a concern but is it sustainable for companies to pay staff year round during their quieter periods? Can an ideal agreed between employer and employee?

Conor says:

Zero hour contracts for me were great, whilst in education they allowed me to tailor work around my studies. This also had its downside though as when I wasn’t studying or playing sport and therefore free to work, the hours weren’t always available. There was potential to be sent home on quiet shifts and therefore not benefit me.

When first starting the job I wasn’t told I wasn’t guaranteed hours but I was told that those on full time / 40 hour per week contracts would get their hours first and they would notify me on any shifts they had outstanding that needed picking up. Additionally being one of only a few bartenders that worked there meant in extended periods of time away from education such as Christmas and Summer meant I was “guaranteed” as many hours as I wished. Alternatively people I knew who’s job role had no demand despite being available weren’t offered as much work.

Additionally I was given specific induction training as well as constant training throughout I the format of online courses as well on the job training just as frequently as those who were full time.

After education a zero hour contract isn’t worth it due to the lack of guaranteed work and inconsistent pay income. Both just two examples of how you would struggle to with affordability towards life costs.

eventemployment says:

Hi Conor,
Thanks for commenting on our blog and sharing your experiences. Flexibility is a huge attraction for some, but like you said, when you are free and want work shifts are not always available. Managers often use them to manage the peaks and troughs of their business, as you have mentioned, events/hospitality are seasonal and will be an increase in demand for staff that may or may not work for each individual. Financial security is the main concern with ZHC, do you support Labour’s plan to abolish them? Would you have preferred to have part-time guaranteed hours whilst in education opposed to what you mentioned?

Conor says:

I can see why the Labour Party would want to abolish zero hour contracts, however I don’t see the harm in having them as an option? I believe from business to business the need for staff on ZHCs fluctuates and therefore should be used within the business at the discretion of the business. If a company agrees with the views of the Labour Party then there’s no need for them to offer them, however a business that functions well with the inclusion of ZHCs should still have the option to offer this.

From 16-18 when in school, college or sixth form, you’re more likely to know when you’re free (evenings and weekends) therefore fixed hours might work better. Alternatively someone in higher education like university has a lot more of a flexible schedule and therefore cannot guarantee consistent availability. University commitments such as sports, work based placements, courses and workshops have fluctuating frequencies and timings. Therefore from a university point of view you might only know your availability week by week as a pose to the same timings on a regular basis. Therefore in response to your question I think it really does depend on the student and/ or the type of education.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for joining in with the discussion Conor!
You make some valid points. Indeed zero hour contracts do work for some organisations more than others, especially when it comes to the event and hospitality industry. The Labour Party are trying to ban zero hour contracts to stop exploitation, but if this ban does not take place, are there other ways to stop the exploitation of employees on zero hour contracts? As you said, university students only know their timetable within a weeks notice, however, this can effect the businesses day to day running. If businesses are constantly waiting for their employees to get back to them with their availability, then could this affect the business and end up in a lack of staff for the shift?

Tim Young says:

Our company has used zero hours contracts in the past and they have worked well for the type of staff that we require. That’s not to say they are a good thing, but they can be useful tool for companies that employ students that are not always available.

eventemployment says:

Hi Tim ,
Thank you for sharing your experiences! That’s great that zero-hour contacts work for your company and your staff, unfortunately this is not necessarily the case other organisations as discussed in our blog. How did you manage staff on these contacts throughout the quieter time of your company? Even though you used ZHC did you have a regular shift pattern that worked well for both yourself and your employees?

Nina says:

I think this is a really interesting blog and very relatable! I am on a zero hour contract and I think for students they are really handy, I have a job back home that I only work during holidays so the flexibility is great as I can go back anytime I like. But I can also see the other side to the issue as some staff members aren’t as dedicated to the job as they should be due to only there as and when they need the work. This can therefore evidently cause issues for managers especially during busy seasons such as Christmas.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for joining our discussion Nina!
It’s great to hear that zero hour contracts are working for you whilst you carry out your studies. Although many do enjoy the flexibility of zero hour contracts, in some cases there is a lack of loyalty and respect for the business. Ultimately, this will result in last minute cancellations of shifts, no shows or even just no responses regarding shifts, causing the organisation to struggle with minimal number of staff. Often, customers can tell very clearly when organisations are lacking staff members to what they are used to. As mentioned in the blog regarding Finsbury Park, many customers tweeted and complained at the result of waiting in two hour long queues. This will most definitely have an impact on the reputation of the business. Has the business you work at ever had complaints because there wasn’t enough staff on? Or perhaps other staff members have felt the pressure due to a lack of staff? As you said with your job, you mainly work holidays which is great to support the organisations, as these holidays are likely to be their busiest periods. Sometimes there can be a lack of communication between full time employees and managers, making it more difficult to arrange shifts. Do you usually sort your shifts out way before the Christmas period? And is there clear communication for you regarding your shifts?

Carla Young says:

I currently manage a member of staff on a zero hour contract. I believe that zero hour contracts work for some people and can actually be of benefit rather than fix hours as it offers flexibility. However, I do believe that they should not be used to exploit or treat people (especially young people) unfairly or unequally to others on full time contacts. The member of staff that I manage was fully aware of the terms and conditions of the contract. We try and keep her hours for her each month so she is able to budget, however she is aware that if the work is not available this could change. I do 6 weekly supervisions to ensure that her mental and emotional wellbeing supported and always invite to meetings so that she feels involved in the organisation. All our zero hour workers are looked after. Our organisation invests time into workers to ensure hat they feel included and motivated to complete the work.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for your comment Carla!
It is great to hear how much support you provide for you staff that are on zero hour contracts. The communication between full time employees and zero hour employees can be difficult, so it is excellent to see that you are inviting them to meetings and making them aware of their terms and conditions to close that communication gap. It is important to ensure that zero hour employees feel as though they are valued within the business, by offering them supervision it is an excellent way to guarantee the employee feels as though they valued and respected. Zero hour contracts can often make the employees feel as though they are not important or not needed, as many businesses do not offer the same support that you are. This can then result in a lack of motivation and determination, which can ultimately be bad for businesses in terms of job performance. If there is a lack of respect, it is likely the zero hour employees will show any loyalty or respect back to the business. Do you think that companies should offer supervision with all of their zero hour employees? Would this be too expensive to offer in terms of time and money? The supervision would help to close the communication gap and prevent exploitation, but can businesses guarantee the employees would offer similar respect in return?

Adele says:

I think there is a time, and a place for Zero Hour contracts. For many they are a great way of working, at times that suit, and they like the flexibility, but I also believe that there are some companies who will take advantage of vulnerability. Certain areas, such as events rely heavily on this type of work for their staff issues, not an easy problem to sort out.

eventemployment says:

Hi Adele, thank you for your comment. Zero-hour contracts are beneficial, particularly within the event industry but do you think these benefits are for the employee or employer? Like you said many companies can exploit their staff on these types of contracts by making their staff feel obligated to accept work otherwise they will not be offered further work. Is the problem with the contract itself or how it is managed by the employer? How would better communication between employer and employee affect this problem?

Martha McGorman says:

I think a straight ban on zero hour contracts would not be beneficial to everyone as some employees can also take advantage of the advantages of not having to work set shifts. More work needs to be done to ensure employers are not using these contracts with employees who do work part time hours for an extended period of time. For example they might offer a 0 hour contract for a probation period with the understanding that they must review the contract and hours after 6 months.

eventemployment says:

Hi Martha,
Thank you for your comment. Its interesting hearing your views on how employees take advantage of the contract compared to typical view that it is the employer that can exploit these types of contracts for their own benefit. What are your views and thoughts about what would happen if the Labour party came into power and abolished zero-hour contracts? Some suggest that a part-time fixed hour contract would be best in order to ensure that an employee meets certain hours whilst at the same time allowing the employee to be given a minimum number of hours to work. Could this offer an alternative to zero-hour contracts and the negatives that they bring?

Shannen says:

I have worked several jobs in catering that were zero hour contracts and found that they worked well for me, especially whilst at university, when I needed the flexibility of work far more than I needed the security.
I feel that as long as both the company and employee are fully aware of the situation they are entering into, then they can be beneficial to the workforce.

eventemployment says:

Hi Shannen,
Thank you for your comment. Zero-hour contracts are particularly beneficial for students that rely on flexibility to fit around other commitments. Communication is key when being on a zero-hour contract to ensure both the employee and employer are on the same page and understand that there will be quieter and busier times which will affect the amount of work that can be offered to the employee. Due to the irregular nature of the contract it can lead to communication breakdown as the managers might not meet with their staff on a regular basis, by communicating with staff on zero-hour contracts it will allow the employee to feel like an included member of the team. With your experience being on a zero-hour contract, did you find that your hours were irregular, and what impact, if any, have on your lifestyle?

Brogan says:

As somebody who had experiences with zero hour contracts when working in seasonal jobs throughout Education, it suited my needs at the time but wouldn’t be sustainable to maintain a functioning, adult lifestyle now due to the uncertainty of unguarenteed hours. I currently work with young people who often look to better their lives through gaining work experience and seeking new opportunities- some for money, but others to improve their skill sets or to occupy their time. This blog serves as a good resource to educate them on the contracts they’re being offered, and in turn, enables them to delve a little bit deeper into finding work and employment that accounts for stability and entitlement from a younge age; this is crucial for those from vulnerable backgrounds, or those who have supported themselves financially from a young age due to tough circumstances. I’ll definitely be sharing the information- thank you!

Brogan says:

As somebody who had experiences with zero hour contracts when working in seasonal jobs throughout Education, it suited my needs at the time but wouldn’t be sustainable to maintain a functioning, adult lifestyle now due to the uncertainty of unguarenteed hours. I currently work with young people who often look to better their lives through gaining work experience and seeking new opportunities- some for money, but others to improve their skill sets or to occupy their time. This blog serves as a good resource to educate them on the contracts they’re being offered, and in turn, enables them to delve a little bit deeper into finding work and employment that accounts for stability and entitlement from a younge age; this is crucial for those from vulnerable backgrounds, or those who have supported themselves financially from a young age due to tough circumstances. I’ll definitely be sharing the information- thank you!

eventemployment says:

Thank you for joining our discussion Brogan!
This can often be the case for many people, that zero hour contracts can suit young people while in education, but due to the lack of security many adults would tend to opt out for them, if they had the choice. While zero hour contracts can allow young people to gain employability skills, experience and develop further, in some cases there is a lack of explanation regarding their contract due to them being young. This disregard for communication can lead to exploiting young people, by treating them like an under valued staff members. However, this kind of work can be a great experience and can be crucial to supporting young people into their career. Although you may have some young people that would value the experience, do you think the lack of control on a zero hour contract would make others disregard their job completely, providing little respect and loyalty towards the company? How would you advise the companies offering zero hour contracts could deal with these issues?

Christina Poulton says:

Where zero hour contracts are used for staff who work very regularly in the same role, as a substitute for giving someone a proper job with security this causes huge issues for people e.g. someone who works in catering for the same organisation for weeks at a time doing part time- full time hours, then it’s basically just being used to save money and needs to stop. If it’s their main income and they rely on it then everything about this is in favour of the employer, not the employee. However I am on a zero hour contract to duty manage for events and I do maybe 1 or 2 shifts a month and pick and choose when and it suits me really well. I couldn’t commit to another job with regular hours but it works because it’s not my main source of income. It’s hard to regulate for the difference between these two scenarios but it needs to not be that zero hours contracts are the default because for most part they are just creating poverty and inequality.

eventemployment says:

Thanks for your comment Christina!
Organisations within the event and hospitality industry often do irregular and very long hours. Indeed, if they have zero hour staff working the same hours, if not longer than the full time staff, often with little to no incentive compared to the full time staff, where they might get a day back in lieu. However, some students take up this role, because they know that when they work they can work long hours and get more money, so if it is allowing the student to do this and it is what they want, should we still try to blur them out of the working environment? However, as you said if it is their main source of income there is little security on a zero hour contract, unless they are happy to continue working like this because it fits with their routine. Its great that your zero hour contract works for you, especially in a management position, where as normally zero hour contracts suit the lower skilled jobs such as waiting and serving. Perhaps a way of regulating the contracts, event companies could use temporary contracts – ensuring a few hours a week during their busy seasons, but then how would you recommend managers ensure they have staff available all year round, often at last minute notice when it comes to the event industry. Would banning zero hour contracts all together stop poverty and equality, or would it only make it worse for those individuals that enjoy the flexibility and the employers that do make it work?

Dominic says:

I feel that for some industries zero hour contracts are vital.

I once worked for a catering firm in a local sports stadium that also had hospitality facilities. The busiest times of year were matches days (usually in the summer) and Christmas events. Most of the staff that worked were either college or university students looking to make a bit of money to either take back to uni or to socialise over the holidays. There just wouldn’t have been enough work during quite periods of the year to have every member of staff on full time instead of zero-hours.

The company I worked for, granted not all would be the same, we’re also very helpful and understanding if people had full time jobs and wanted to make a bit more money on the side. You could work flexible shifts around your full time hours without the need to be fully employed.

Having read some comments above about 6% of employees not knowing that it is a zero hour contract. Surely the employer is legally obliged to advise in writing that it is a zero hour contract. There for putting the responsibility of the employee to read and understand before agreeing.

Zero hour contracts provide employees with the same rights as other employees, I don’t believe they are discriminated against. However, contradictory to common belief, zero hour employees can find work elsewhere. Granted some employers do put a clause in contracts not allowing employees to find work elsewhere but legally employees are allowed to ignore this.

I feel that zero hour contracts are more of a benefit than not, I just feel there needs to be more of an understanding of them. Perhaps instead of abolishing them the government can educate employers and employees instead.

eventemployment says:

Hi Dominic, thanks for commenting. Zero-hour contracts are often used by businesses which experience fluctuating demands for their services and so need to manage the size of their workforce proportionate to the amount of work available. It sounds like the business you worked for were as accommodating as possible with their staff, which is great, but not all employers are like this.
It is true that contracts need to clearly outline that the offered job doesn’t guarantee any hours, thus putting the onus on the individual to understand the consequences of this, however many still aren’t completely clear on what a zero-hour contract actually means.
As with those on other contracts, employees on zero-hour contracts are entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage, paid annual leave, rest breaks and protection from discrimination. Zero-hour employees do not have to accept worked offer to them by their employers, and as of 2015 exclusivity clauses in these contracts are prohibited, preventing employees from searching for work elsewhere even if their current employer doesn’t have any hours to offer them. From 2016, legislation came into force that meant workers on zero-hour contracts could complain to an employment tribunal if they were dismissed or suffered as a result of working for another employer or asking for permission from their employer to do so. Up until then exclusivity clauses were banned but there was no penalty for avoiding the ban.
How do you think the government could educate employers and employees about the role zero-hour contracts play in the workplace? What views do you have on alternative contracts such as annual hours?

Katie says:

The only benefit for employers is they don’t have to pay for idle hours. But is the saving of a few hours wages worth bearing a cost of reputation, disappointed clients, lost profits?
Don’t think that such a company can attract many people who would like to work for them.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for your comment Katie!
Indeed employers can benefit from not having to pay for unnecessary hours, which in the events industry is ideal with it being so seasonal. However, if there is a lack of loyalty from the employee then they are likely to under perform at work resulting in guests not getting excellent customer service, and a loss of revenue. However, employers can benefit from having zero hour contracts when dealing with last minute events that confirm. Managers are able to staff the event quickly and efficiently, without using their full time employees and taking their time out of the business. Do you think there is another way that employers should use zero hour contracts without exploiting their employees? Without having zero hour employees, could the event and hospitality industry survive the peaks and troughs?

Malcolm says:

It is a very interesting subject. I must confess that during my working life I did not hear of such contracts, only casual labour which in some respects is similar. My initial view was that they were unfair on employees and I am still inclined to that view although I am sure there are some who like the flexibility, providing they can afford it and when they are not working tax payers are not funding them if there were other options open to them. From an employers point of view it must be of great benefit if they have intermittent work and as long as they have enough employed on that basis they are unlikely to be without workers when required. I think job sharing is a better bet from an employees position and works well for empoyers if the hours are limited.

eventemployment says:

Hi Malcom, thank you for your comment!
For the employee on a zero-hour contract it is true that it can be unfair for them and that is something both the employer and employee need to sit down and sort with their contract prior to starting work, so that both are aware of their entitlement. Zero-hour contracts employees can offer great benefit, however as referred to in our blog they can lack loyalty and sometimes just not show up. How is it you think employers can incentivise employees to turn up and do a good job? Through our research we also found the University College London Institute of Education showed that young adults were at a higher risk of mental health than those in a stable job, do you think this is because they are not always guaranteed hours and struggle to get by with just that job?

Julie Bray says:

I think if I was at an age where I was looking to rent or purchase a property then a zero hours contract would not be viable.

It must be very unsettling, healthwise and mentally, for individuals on zero hours contracts worrying if they will be earning money, week in week out.

Zero hours contracts seem to suit part time employees or students who can choose their hours to suit their lifestyles

Zero hours contracts give employers a ‘get out’ clause, however, as stated in the blog, they can’t always guarantee that staff will turn up for events thus leading to events being delayed and queues forming

I would not want my children to work zero hours contracts personally due to job and financial insecurity.

eventemployment says:

Hi Julie, thank you for interacting with our blog!
This is a very prominent issues for zero-hour contracts, and how people can build a life on them when there is no guaranteed work all the time. Do you feel getting rid of zero-hour contracts would be more beneficial or would that effect those younger people who are not yet looking for financial stability but just a job alongside their education to support them?

Anna says:

Zero hours is a tricky one because some people find them really beneficial and then there are some people who are taken advantage of. I think the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is for employees to do all the appropriate research. As I’ve seen in the comments, it is clear many people don’t know their rights or what they’re entitled to. At the end of the day, a business is a business and unfortunately, there are going to be many who will try to do things as cheaply as possible. Until proper laws and education is put it place about zero hour contracts, we must make sure we’re all equipped with the appropriate knowledge so that ultimately, we’re not screwed over!

eventemployment says:

Thank you for your comment Anna!
More often than not, employees are on zero-hour contracts without knowing what they are entitled to, such as accrued holiday pay, sick pay and overtime hours. Employers are not always forthcoming about such entitlements, meaning the lack of communication can lead to exploitation of those employees not utilising their entitlements. Do you think for young people on zero-hour contracts, there should be more education around them in school? Ultimately businesses will always be looking for a way to save money, therefore zero hour contracts, especially for the events and hospitality industry, will be ideal. Is there any other contracts these industries could use to save money without exploiting individuals?

Carl Horsburgh says:

I believe the advantages of zero hour contracts are outweighed by the negatives. From an employee perspective they give very little protection from the unscrupulous bosses of the world, employers can simply hire and dehire staff as they think fit there would be no guarantee of an income. This would certainly affect there chances of securing things like mortgages and other loans. Staff on zero hour contracts tend to be treated less favourably when it comes to benefits like a company sick pay scheme. From an employer perspective it is very difficult to plan staff rostering I have a number of staff on zero hours ( their choice not mine ) and when it comes to holidays they all want the same time off, this always causes a problem over the Xmas and Easter periods and we end up spending a fortune on agency staff to cover absences. So employers and employees should think twice before embarking on such contracts.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for commenting on our blog Carl.
There are many benefits to all stakeholders surrounding zero hour contracts, however, the negatives can often have a stronger impact. For example, mental health issues, little security, and an irregular income. With regards to the event industry, zero hour contracts work well because they can hire and let people go as they please, if a member of staff doesn’t fit within their company ethos, then they can have little regret about letting them go and quickly hire someone else to fill the space. But how would this affect the employee? Zero hour staff are entitled to accrued holiday pay, sick pay and overtime pay, but very often these employees are unaware of their entitlements. Do you think closing the communication gap between zero hour staff and managers would help to prevent these issues and make the employees more aware of what they are entitled to? And whose responsibility is it discuss the entitlements? Should the employee ask, or should the manager inform before signing contracts? With regards to putting staff onto a rota, it can be difficult when they are all unavailable, but more often than not the employer will have a larger number of employees to prevent being under staffed. However, as you said, often companies will need to fill spaces by using agencies, meaning they are spending more. However, have they not saved money from having zero hour employees to be able to afford agencies should they need? Would it be more beneficial for the ban of zero-hour contracts altogether or would it cause more issues to both parties?

Anonymous says:

I currently work on a zero hour contract and find it great to work around other commitments like uni however it often means long shifts and sometimes you can have lots of shifts and sometimes none it’s quite varied.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for commenting on our blog!
It is great to hear that zero-hour contracts allows you to work around university. More often zero hour employees do end up doing longer shifts, which some young people are happy because it can mean more money, but do you get told your shift hours before you start? Zero hour staff can often be exploited by managers by preventing them from having their breaks that they are entitled to. Are you aware of what you are entitled to whilst working for the company? Do you feel that once you have finished in education that you would continue on a zero-hour contract or not? What would you be concerned about if you were on a zero hour contract?

Pasquale says:

With the Conservative party in power for over eight years it is no surprise that the use of zero hours contracts increases year after year. Yes these contracts may benefit students who may need to work and earn money in between their studies. However it is scandalous that hundreds of thousands of workers have a contract with no fixed hours and no guarantee of regular hours. Apart from students most people on zero hour contracts tend to be women, the low paid, low skilled, workers from the EU, the young. It is a myth that those on zero hours contracts enjoy the flexibility these contracts offer. Most want more hours, on a regular basis. It is the employer that holds all the flexibility. They can offer hours to employees at short notice knowing that most are not in a position to refuse.
It will be interesting if Brexit does go ahead how some companies using zero hours contracts will manage with many EU workers already returning back home.
Tony Blair promised to end the use of zero hours contracts when he came to power. Just one of his many disappointments. Let’s hope a Labour government would carry this promise through. New Zealand have outlawed such contracts. Whilst the Tories are in power there is no hope that they will go down this road. We need a change of regime in order for workers to have proper contracts with guaranteed hours and not being stressed out they their manager may not give them enough hours to financially survive the month. Will they have to resort to the food bank again ? Will they be able to pay the rent? These are the realities of those who have no choice but to accept a zero hour contract. If you are lucky enough to be able to pick and chose when you want to work then a zero hour contract is fine. Most people do not have this choice

eventemployment says:

Thanks for joining our discussion Pasquale!
Indeed the Conservative Party has increased the number of jobs, but that does mean the increase of zero hour contracts, which not everyone is interested in due to the issues surrounding these types of contracts. The contracts can work with various individuals, including young people if they need money, or if they simply just want to work. But do you think that zero hour contracts can work for others, perhaps vulnerable people? Or a second job for others that do not mind the irregular hours. Many individuals have experienced irregular hours while on zero hour contracts, and although this may work for some, it can cause serious issues for people, such as mental health issues or becoming unmotivated. Looking into the research further, many students do enjoy the flexibility of the contract, including those that are using it as a second job. Usually, they are lower skilled jobs available on zero hour contracts, however there are some manager/duty manger positions, especially within the events industry that can work on a zero hour contract. If the employee wants more hours, they may look at changing jobs to a part time contract, however there are more zero hour contracts available. In the events industry, events can often be confirmed at last minute, meaning the manager must find staff at late notice. This is not then the managers’ choice to leave it until last minute, but them trying to staff their event efficiently and quickly. Would you suggest that by having other types of contracts, more people would be guaranteed hours, with less people refusing to work? But how would the events industry use part time contracts, and could they cope without the zero hour contract?
There has already been a decrease in the number of EU workers in event and hospitality since Brexit has been acknowledged. Therefore, they will begin to struggle. Do you feel these industries will then take to hire more people on zero hour contracts to solve the lack of staff? If the Labour party were to ban zero hour contracts, do you feel this would solve all issues? Or could it potentially leave industries such as the event and hospitality sector struggling to staff their events, and cause further issues? Do you think the government should create a different type of contract, with perhaps some of the advantages of a zero hour contract, but without the issues? Is this even possible or will there always be something wrong with it someway or another?

Mirella says:

I have never worke zero hours contract nor was it around when I commenced working many years ago. However, I do believe that zero hours contracts are beneficial to those who want flexibility, for examples young people in education (6th form or university) where they are able work around their education. On the negative side, it wouldn’t suit a young person who is looking to rent or purchase a property as there would not be any guaranteed income. Also for someone working on a zero hour contract, I am not sure whether they would be entitled to the same benefits as permanent full time employees, like a pension scheme, sick pay and rewards benefits.
I can see why employers use zero hour contracts as this would suit some hospitality organisations such as rugby clubs and cricket clubs as their busiest periods would be match days and possibility christmas when hosting parties

eventemployment says:

Hi Mirella, thank you for your comment.
We have had a lot people agree that whilst in education zero-hour contracts often work well, but they are not suitable after education in means of financial security.
It is interesting you mention that about sick pay, pension, holiday pay and rewards benefits. Zero-hour contract employees are actually entitled to the same company benefits as full-time employees but unfortunately not a lot of staff are aware of this. Do you think more needs to be done to ensure staff are well managed? How to do think the events and hospitality industry will manage if Labour do come into power and abolish these contracts?

Amber says:

I worked a zero hour contract and it fit well around my schedule whilst at college and I had regular shifts. It is very catering to when wanting time off, but sometimes you could be called in last minute or your shift could be cancelled with not much notice at all which was annoying and inconvinient.

eventemployment says:

Hi Amber, thank you for interacting with our blog!
It is interesting to hear your experiences with zero-hour contracts. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the hospitality and events industry the demand for staff does vary and is not consistent. This works well for sustaining a business though quieter times but is not necessarily ideal for staff as you have highlighted. Do you agree with Labour’s plan to abolish ZHC should they come into power? Do you think better communication between staff and employers would help overcome employee concerns about the contracts?

Amber says:

Dont think they should be abolished as are handy. And deffinately think better communication between employer and employee will help.

eventemployment says:

Thanks for your reply Amber!
Many bussinesses in the hospitality and events industry may suffer if ZHC are abolished, and some staff do enjoy the flexibility.
How do you think communication can be improved? Do you think many staff are aware that they are entitled to the same rights (eg holiday and sick pay) as full time employees?

Dawn Little says:

Zero hour contracts offer flexibility, however, it is important for both parties to understand the contract they are entering into, ensuring both parties get the maximum benefit from the agreement.

eventemployment says:

Hi Dawn, thanks for taking part in our discussion!
It’s true many employees see the flexibility of the contracts an advantage as shared by some individuals in the comments! You are right that communication is key between staff and employer! How do you think zero-hour staff can be kept motivated? Can you recommend any ways to which a happy medium can be reached?

Ken says:

Whilst I have no experience of zero-hours contracts myself I can see arguments for and against them.

Perhaps worthy of note is one of James’s comments.

James suggests this type of contract may be best suited to a phase in one’s life where the security of a regular income is less important. An example of this could be when a married couple, with their children having left home, find themselves financially ‘comfortable’ and able to pick and choose when and where they work.

This seems to be a common view among other bloggers.

Where a zero-hours contract may not be so attractive is to those who, perhaps through no fault of their own, find themselves in the unenviable situation where they have little or no choice but to accept such a contract on the grounds they need to support a young family where there is little or no other work in the community that matches their skill set.

In situations such as this the relationship between employee and employer is critical such that both get something out of it. The employer, a reliable and hard working employee. The employee, regular work.

I guess the debate will continue.

eventemployment says:

Thank you for joining our discussion Ken!
Indeed there are many arguments that support both for and against zero hour contracts. It is great to see your opinion in relation to James’. Zero hour contracts depend on the individual and that company. As you suggested, someone looking to pick up a few shifts here and there due to financial stability, or perhaps young people in education and vulnerable people. However, if someone is not financially comfortable and requires security, then do you think these types of contracts would not work? Unfortunately, although there are jobs out there, a lot of them are zero hour contracts doing a low skilled job. Individuals could start with this type of contract and then work there way up, but if there is not the opportunity for this, then how are these people supposed to change their working life without accepting a zero hour contract? Unfortunately, if people need the job, they will agree to the contract. Do you think there should be a different kind of contract for those that desperately need jobs, maybe even if it can guarantee 6 hours a week, to provide a little more comfort and security? If the employee and employer both have respect for the contract and one another, this can help to close the communication gap, and ensure fewer people are being exploited while on a zero hour contract. But how can managers change these contracts unless they are banned, especially for the event industry that relies on these contracts so heavily? The employee could be as hard working as possible, but the manager may not have the work available to offer, then whose responsibility is it to deal with the consequences for both stakeholders?

Loz Grinnell says:

I have no experience of zero hour contracts directly but many of the young people I work with have been more affected than I have. I do believe that zero hour contracts are a way of employing people on the cheap without having to worry about things such as annual leave and sick pay.

I do believe though that if people are happy to work on zero hour contracts then they may have a place. I also believe that the advantages of this may vary from employer to employer and with the type of industry that the employer is part of.

eventemployment says:

Hi Loz, thank you for your comment!
Do you think there needs to be more regulations in place to make sure those on zero-hour contracts are aware of what they are entitled to, so they don’t get mislead? Interesting to think about zero-hours in the different industry’s with CIPD finding that 48% of those contracts are in the event and hospitality industry do you think there needs to more of a light on those staff and how they are treated?

Events managers are unlikely to be able to rely on zero hours contracts in the coming years.

First, Its worth thinking about where the recruits will come from. The jobs market is now quite tight. Today’s ONS Labour Market Bulletin shows unemployment is at its lowest level for 40 years and unfilled vacancies at their highest level since the series began 20 years ago. Permanent full-time employment has increased rapidly, whilst the number of temporary jobs continues to decline. There is no longer a reserve army of labour waiting to take up casual work and it seems quite likely that our exit from the EU will make volunteers even harder to find

Second, lagislative change may well be in the air under the current government. The Taylor Review on Modern Workplaces proposed a 25% statutory premium on the minium wage for hours not in the contract. The government gave the issue to the Low Pay Commission this year, with the broader ambit of looking for measures that would “deter unwarranted one-sided flexibility”. The LPC report will be publshed on 27 November, so watch this space.

So what should events managers do? As a former supermarket manager I would say think about some more permanent recruitments so that you cna be sure of being able to access business-critical skills. Its possible to use flexible working patterns like annualised hours – and every manager knows roughly where the seasonality occurs in their business.

There may also be more use of agency workers, who can bring a range of skills including specialised roles like silver service waiting.

Trade unions also have something to bring to the party. They have a broad knowledge of the labour market and working practices locally and nationally, and they can articulate the independent voice of your workforce. There is an old saying…70% of managers think they are good communicators and 30% of staff agree!

It genuinely can help to hear what your employees really think, and an open conversation with union reps can be a lot more use to managers than, say, a rather stilted conversation with a quality circle.

eventemployment says:

Hi Paul, thank you for your comment.
As you so rightly pointed out, events will soon no longer be able to call on a large reserve of workers willing to work on a flexible basis, particularly with the recent vote to leave the EU. As a result, events will have to look elsewhere for employees who are available to work in the unpredictable events industry. With the events industry being so reliant on workers who can fit around the seasonal work that events offer, would recruiting staff on a full-time contract be an option for event managers? The Conservative Party have claimed that during their time in power they have created a significant number of jobs, potentially a reason for the low unemployment rates – what are your thoughts on the jobs they have created? They have created more jobs however they offer inconsistent work and financial insecurity, is that the correct way to reduce unemployment?

With this potential changes in legislation and government, event managers need to be aware of this and consider the implications that they could have on there business and act before it is too late. How do you think this new legislation could affect the events industry?

Part-time fixed hours may be a possible solution for event professionals. However, event managers will have to be able to predict their season to ensure that events are fully staffed whilst also considering that there will be quieter periods where hours might not be available to employees. Event managers will need to find a balance between there busier and quieter periods to ensure that hours are met during quieter periods but also have fully staffed events at the same time, what is the middle ground? How do you think event managers would be able to overcome this issue?

The 2030 labour market is going to cut down on workforce and will be looking for individuals with a range of competencies, with those lacking a varied skills base struggling to find work, due to fewer low-skilled positions on offer. Therefore, if people do not have high competencies they will struggle to succeed within an organisation. The labour market want to cut all expenses with staff therefore if they cut zero hour contracts, they will result in the usage of agencies, which for the events industry, comes at a higher cost due to the fact they pay the agency company and the staff to work. Agency staff are more expensive which needs to be taken into consideration and if they are not regularly used by a company then they may require additional training with can be costly and timely for the organisation; which can then negatively impact the company’s reputation if they are not up to the same standard of the company and may not fit into the company’s ethos, potentially meaning poor customer service. If the company has a bad reputation they will find it harder to find staff willing to work on a full time basis because nobody wants to work for a company offering bad service. How could event managers use agency staff effectively at an event whilst ensuring that budgets are met?

Definitely agree with you that communication is key when employees and employers are concerned. Would the introduction of the uTRAC app that be beneficial to an event manager to help bridge the gap of communication? Open communication between employees and managers is desirable but how would you facilitate this in a way that engages both parties without it being one-sided?

Daniel says:

As a chef with 25 years experience I can honestly say that the invention of the zero hour contract has made little to no difference in the catering industry. Bar staff and waiting staff has always been a job used as a stop gap rather than a career unlike in more Mediterranean countries where it is viewed as respected and well paid job.
In my opinion the bigger problem we face is the minimum/living wage as I personally find it unacceptable that age reflects what you are worth!!

Very good article!!!

eventemployment says:

Hi Daniel, Thank you for your comment. I am glad you liked the blog.
Zero-hour contracts can be seen as beneficial for those that are after flexibility and do not have the financial responsibilities such as mortgages, which is why as you have stated it can be viewed as a stop gap job within the events and hospitality industry. Interesting, that you highlight the cultural differences. Why do you think these cultural differences exist? Is it because of the type of contracts that are offered to those whose role is a bartender or waitress?
When on zero-hour contracts the pay is usually based on the minimum/living wage, particularly as this is beneficial for a company as the staff on zero-hour contracts are quite young. How do you think companies should pay their staff – based on what they do? what the job is worth? how much experience you have? Would this cause issues amongst staff if they were paid differently?

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