Zero-hours crackdown plan unveiled by Labour leader


Ed Miliband: "Frankly, these look like Victorian conditions at work"

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Ed Miliband has detailed plans to tackle the "epidemic" of zero-hours contracts if Labour wins the next election.

The Labour leader says workers with irregular shifts and pay should be given more employment rights.

They should get a contract with fixed hours if they work regularly for the same employer for a year, he argues.

The Tories said the number of zero-hours contracts went up under Labour and they did nothing about it.

A government spokesman said it was analysing research on zero-hours contracts and would "respond in due course".

Zero-hours contracts allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, only paying them for whatever hours they work.

'Evidence of abuse'

Speaking in Motherwell after a shadow cabinet meeting in Glasgow, Mr Miliband said: "Zero-hour contracts have spread like an epidemic across our economy.

"The government's own figures say they have increased three-fold since 2010 and some estimates suggest there are one million people on these contracts across the UK including at least 90,000 here in Scotland."

He will say the contracts can offer "short-term flexibility for employers and employees" but that most employers don't use them because they are "incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce".

He added that Labour is determined to ban the "worst abuses of the system".

"It has left too many people not knowing how they will make ends meet from one week to the next, and unable to plan for the future," he will say.

Under Labour's plans, workers on zero-hours contracts would:

  • not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours
  • be free to work for other employers
  • have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice
  • have "clarity" from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions
  • have the right to request a contract with a "minimum amount of work" after six months with an employer - this could only be refused if employers could prove their business could not operate any other way
  • have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with an employer

Mr Miliband said this can "only be done across the UK", adding: "If Scotland left the UK it would be harder to end the abuse of zero-hours contracts either here or in what is left of the UK."

Labour asked Norman Pickavance, former HR director at supermarket chain Morrisons, to carry out a review into zero-hours contracts, and these plans are based on his recommendations.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the party was targeting "exploitative" contracts.

"One man's flexibility is another's insecurity", he said, claiming some workers were "scared out of their wits".

But James Sproule, chief economist for the Institute of Directors, said "flexibility" in the labour market was helping the economy to recover.

"Zero-hours contracts are one small part of a much broader flexible labour market", he said.

Zero-hours review

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said zero-hours contracts could offer "welcome flexibility" and the government would not "ban them outright", but there had been "evidence of abuse".

And Business Minister Matthew Hancock said: "We want to strike the right balance between flexibility for the businesses who create jobs and making sure there's adequate protection for employees.

"That's why we are carrying out a review into zero-hours contracts."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said the Labour leader had "zero credibility when he comes to Scotland to talk about social justice".

"He backs a No campaign which is being bankrolled by rich Tory donors and which is aimed at keeping Westminster's undemocratic grip on Scotland," Mr Salmond said.

"A Yes vote will mean that we never again have to endure unpopular Westminster Tory governments that we didn't elect - and independence will mean Scotland always gets the governments we vote for, allowing us to take the action we want on issues like the Bedroom Tax, the living wage and zero-hours contracts."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    Nice try ED M. We need fairness in the employment market (Labour and the Tories have similar views which don’t go far enough to protect UK workers). Ban zero hour contracts, fine unscrupulous companies 20% of their profits if they contravene the minimum wage. If UK sweatshops go bankrupt it will hardly dent the economy (mostly small Limited companies).

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    er..isn't this what Vince Cable reviewed two years ago and said the same thing? Milleband has worked out that people have short memories so this will do as some sort of electioneering slogan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    786.Armchair Warrior
    The Labour Party should be saying "We will totally ban zero hours contracts", and reinstate workers rights pre-Coalition..

    ?????? ZHC's existed pre-coalition so this comment is pointless.
    ZHC's and low pay have perpetuated because of an over-supply of low skilled workers, one cause of which is EU immigration.

    But if you think UKIP are the answer you're diluded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Just wonder who is 'feeding' Ed Milliband with all these daft ideas. If they bleed business to death who is going to provide all this Welfare cash they like to splash around like there is no tomorrow? Milliband and his silly shadow cabinet need a lot longer in the wilderness I'm afraid. Not a good brain amongst them and it gets worse by the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    787.Charles Jurcich
    No you won't. There is no requirement to accept a ZHC from the job centre's point of view.
    Even if you are not interested in doing the work long term, it will help you build your CV.
    We were in an era of unprecedented global growth. Other countries lowered their debt ratio more, e.g. Germany & Canada.

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    784. Five Stars
    "The thing with ZHC's is that you don't have to accept the work if you don't want to"


    That depends entirely on the contract. Some expect you to be available WHENEVER asked, and have exclusivity terms.

    But your point does raise the interesting possibility of people having many ZHCs, and picking and choosing the offers. If enough did this it would become a seller's market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    I can't believe what pathetic roll all over me you people are where are your balls come on stop rolling over and let the Tories walk all over you get up and fight

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    786.Armchair Warrior
    The Labour Party should be saying "We will totally ban zero hours contracts", and reinstate workers rights pre-Coalition..
    Zero hours contracts are pre-coalition, doh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.


    I'll counter your misrepresentation of the truth with this link written by a Tory about the economy under Labour:

    "Labour in 1997 inherited a debt of 42% of GDP. By the start of the global banking crises 2008 the debt had fallen to 35%"

    "not as a result of overspending prior to and after 2008"

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    Miliband's best policy;

    Free Wensleydale to the under 8s

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    @784.Five Stars
    You're missing the point. For some people who have been job hunting for a while, a ZHC may be the only job offer they get. Once accepted, they may find their only given a couple of hours a week to work. This not enough to live on, but they cannot get any assistance (other than Tax Credits) and a lot of these employers will not allow you to work for another company.

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Labour has some good ideas - but Mr Milibands punching power is as strong as the warm wind that has gone in my trouses just now...

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    779 "If UKIP get in half of us will be on zero hour contracts as EU worker protection is abolished" - Er but the mythic "EU worker protection" you've mentioned are in place currently and still zero hour contracts exist (although in nothing like the exaggerated levels the Beeb makes out for Labour) so... your comment makes no sense and can be happily ignored. Yay, another leftie myth busted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Every time Milliband talks about business you can see how the country was brought to its knees by the government he was in
    Thoughtless crud.
    Blair and Mandleson emulated "business friendly" tories by embracing their failed policies - this led to there being 2 rows of corporate puppets sitting opposite one another in the Commons - Will Self fag paper analogy refers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    "If you want the work and flexibility take the contract."

    And if you don't you'll be sanctioned by the job centre for refusing to take a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    The Labour Party should be saying "We will totally ban zero hours contracts", and reinstate workers rights pre-Coalition..

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    It's all hot air anyway.
    Unscrupulous employers are already using a host of tactics to keep wages low and suppress them further when they can.
    Just one example - national companies such as Tesco and UPS offering employment contracts of 18-24 hours a week spread across 4-5 days and often at rates just above minimum wage.
    What a sick joke. Who can live on that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    The thing with ZHC's is that you don't have to accept the work if you don't want to. It's your choice. If you want the work and flexibility take the contract.

    What is it with people who constantly seem to think that the state should dictate what people can & cannot do with their lives?

    If you want to live in that kind of society there's always Cuba or North Korea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    779. Carl Pierce
    "If UKIP get in half of us will be on zero hour contracts as EU worker protection is abolished"


    The EU does not write our employment law. WTD gives some protection, but that is H&S.

    We get indirect protection from ECHR and HRA though. A court could not uphold an employer's varying a contract, in such a way that it damaged someone's private and family life, for instance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    Let's see and hear more of Ed please BBC! He's doing a great job of keeping Labour away from power.


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