Vince Cable has said the coalition will review the rules behind employer exclusivity in controversial 'zero-hours' contracts, instead of ushering in an outright ban.
The LibDem business secretary said the government review he has led into the issue would focus on the rules forcing workers to work for only a single employer under these arrangements, which guarantee no fixed hours or benefits.
"Where it is a problem is…where there is an exclusive relationship with a particular employer who actually cannot provide stable employment, or indeed any employment, that stops the worker going to another company," he said.
"I'm holding open the possibility that next month we could move forward with recommendations to consult on legislation, but we haven't got to that point yet."
Cable's comments come after a report by the Chartered Institute Of Personnel and Development suggested one million people could be working on zero-hours contracts, far higher than the 250,000 official calculation from the Office for National Statistics.
Alongside this, Britain's largest food chain McDonalds has admitted that it employs 90% of it UK staff, equivalent to 82,800 workers, on zero hours contracts.
Companies and staff on zero-hours contracts:
- McDonald's: 82,800
- JD Wetherspoon: 24,000
- Sports Direct: 20,000
- Spirit Group: 16,000
- Boots: 4,000
- Buckingham Palace 350 summer workers
Labour is planning to hold a summit on zero-hours to investigate the extent of any abuse. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said it added 'unnecessary strain' on families.
"Zero-hours contracts are making hundreds of thousands of people worried about whether they will have enough work or be able to put food on the table for their children week by week."
"Labour believes zero-hours contracts should be the exception, not the rule. This sort of flexibility can be important for some employees. But the news today that one million people are on such contracts makes it clear that far too many workers and families are now caught in this zero-hours trap."
- Zero-Hours Contracts: Do They Help Or Hurt Employers And Employees?
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Chancellor George Osborne welcomed a zero hours review but stressed that it still helped people get employment.
"We will make sure that [zero-hours] contracts are used in a proper way …but obviously the best solution for people who want to work more hours is to have a growing economy, and that's absolutely what we're setting about trying to achieve.
"What we want is a flexible labour market so people can get jobs, come out of unemployment and find work. Of course we do not want employment contracts abused."