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Think tank demands fixed-hours employment for zero-hours workers

A leading political 'think tank' has demanded the Government oblige employers using 'zero-hours' contracts to offer workers fixed-hours jobs once they have been in the post for a year, reports The Independent.

The Resolution Foundation is a 'think tank', which formulates policy recommendations for governments and political parties to help them tackle key issues on the political agenda.

Zero-hours contracts are employment contracts that tie workers and employers together without the obligation for the employer to provide any work at all, and with no obligation on the employee to accept any work offered.

Zero-hours contracts are not defined in law, but to be effective both parties to the contract must have an understanding that there is no obligation to offer work, and no obligation to accept any offered.

Zero-hours contracts are popular in industries that require a flexible workforce, with the ability to raise staffing numbers dramatically at short notice to meet unexpected demand, without an ongoing commitment to pay staff once the demand has been met.

Examples of industries in which zero-hours contracts are popular include the catering industry, temporary staffing agencies, and those who work on an 'on call' or 'bank' system, allowing employers to access staff at short notice to cover sickness or absenteeism.

It is thought that there are around 1m people on zero-hours contracts in the UK at present. Although their benefits are widely recognised, they can also be subject to abuse, as employers can use the contracts to secure regular work, without the need to offer the same security and obligations as they would if a worker was on a fixed-hours contract.

It is this abuse that is being targeted by the recommendations from the Resolution Foundation. They believe that workers who work regular hours on a zero-hours contract for a year should automatically be offered a fixed-hours part-time contract at the end of that first year.

Vidhya Alakeson is the joint author of the report, and the deputy chief executive of the Foundation.

"The argument that nothing can be done to address the inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts is as unconvincing as that which says that they should just be banned outright," she told The Independent.

"With these practical steps and an effort to develop good practice among employers, it should be possible to protect the rights and conditions of workers without limiting the flexibility of firms," she added.

Business secretary Vince Cable is currently reviewing the use of zero-hours contracts.