As an employer in a small business, I fully endorse the use of zero hours contracts to create a more dynamic, responsive workforce.
Zero hours contracts make perfect sense. To fulfil the demand for temporary workers in casual positions, they allow the employer to flex their staffing muscle according to the needs of the business and the whims of the customer.
Zero hour contracts create an innate sense of competition (found in all self employed people that I work with) that makes people hungry for work. People perform better on a zero hour contract. Every hour they deliver for that business is another hours work they may gain later in the week.
In our working world, sick days have become manifest, as normal as a tea break or a bank holiday. Zero hours contracts dramatically reduces the number of days sick taken by an employee. It seems people are far less sick when it is their own wage they are costing themselves.
As an employer I admire the ambition of Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley. 90% of his staff, all 20,000 part time workers, are on zero hours contracts. Following the push for a formal inquiry into this area, Mr Ashley may be called to Westminster to answer questions on why so many of his staff are on these informal contracts.
Like so many of us struggling to create jobs, I do not doubt he has grown tired of employment legislation that appears to be written entirely for the benefit of the employee, to the detriment of the employer.
A zero hours contract reduces a number of employment provisions; notice periods and unfair dismissal can be avoided. Wages are driven down, pension and sickness benefits are limited.
Meanwhile the company can maintain an on call workforce that take nothing for granted and understand their next shift is dependent on their performance at their last.
I am always amazed by the resilience of my self employed colleagues: recognising they cannot take a holiday without paying the price, forever on call, always saying yes to work, working weekends, anti social hours, always charming, polite, gracious.
A make up artist kindly working to make me camera ready (no mean feat) for Australian breakfast TV arrived at midnight for the booking. She insisted it was "no problem", and that her two hour journey home was just "a hop and a skip away".
Zero hours contracts create a positive tension in a workforce.
It is a tension that the self employed understand as naturally as the reason they never turn down work and will always say "yes" no matter how far they have to travel and no matter what personal cost.
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