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 821.

    Politicians will never deliver the country most people want, everything is in place to ensure that death and taxes are the only certainties. You could not be self sufficient and minimalist if you wanted, can you roam freely? NO, can you build a hut and live in it? NO, can you work on a zero hours contract? YES. Says it all really, enjoy your serfdom

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    I'm on a ZHC which suits me very well at this late stage in my working life. Of course there will always be some lousy employers who will cut hours at very short notice but mostly if you're a good worker who adds value to a business why should they treat you badly. If they do treat you badly and you are good at what you do, move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    More people in work is certainly better than fewer people in work but if they are working in lower productivity and lower waged industries then this is far from the ideal outcome. And I here IDS singing - Work and Work Work til you die because there are plenty more fish in the sea to fry...

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    811.thesilentmajority lies I'm afraid. So you dismiss an article written by a self confessed Tory! I suggest you read it and tell us what is wrong with his evidence sourced article. You won't be able to cos it's evidence based!

    I think you will find the 70's was a mixture of Labour and Tory govts and that the oil crisis was primary reason for our economic woes. That and bad management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.


    Your correct of course, ,Doh!!
    But I actually said, "reinstate workers rights pre-Coalition"

    ZHC's existed pre-coalition so this comment is pointless

    I actually said "reinstate workers rights pre-Coalition". Read the post again
    Didn't say anything about whatsoever about UKIP ????, so I am obviously not deluded...

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    I think the Labour party have contacts with:
    Co Op
    But also the HR market, that's why there's high unemployment. Labour party is manipulating this market in the first place. De-railing our economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    I don't think zero hours contracts are unreasonable, but if they are exclusive then that definitely is not fair.

    This is the most important point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    I'd probably agree. I don't vote Tory so I don't really care.

    Any government that meddles in the lives of its citizens is going to get boom & bust economics. It's too complicated to manage centrally.

    Ed's probably the worst of them, but then he's a puppet of his union backers. His brother was a far better candidate.
    I wouldn't trust anyone espousing an -ism of any sort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.


    Where do you live Billy because the picture you paint doesn't sound anything like where I live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    @807 Geoff, Quite agree, seems like there's plenty of Turkeys.
    Maybe its the Daily Mail readers that think anything said by non Tories must be slagged off.
    This is not about the handful of people it suits it's about protecting people who have no choice and the more it's tolerated the more we will see it.
    Anyone out there in a "permanent" job fancy getting lumbered with one ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    806. 0racle

    Just because a left wing paper says so does not make it true. Try pre 1979 when we had to go to the IMF for bail out whilst the lefty unions dictated the way we would ruin our country and succeeded. Same happened in their last 13 years, debt started from 2006 and they were warned but ignored.

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    That we are wholly reliant upon the French for a nuclear power strategy is indicative of the short term fast buck approach adopted by Corporate controlled UK PLC - we refuse to invest in anything other than the Bankers Uncapped Bonus slush fund. Our companies expect fully trained people to drop into their laps and proper apprenticeships are history. Sub prime skivvying for sub prime employers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    @620. Mathna

    "Does this mean that Labour MPs will stop employing Interns?"

    No - Interns are not on ZHCs anyway - they are on MHMA-ZPC, that's

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    Ed 'Cain' Milibore looks totally stoned in the very flattering picture below the

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    Zero hours contracts suit some people - this is true. But for a lot of people it is simply a case of the bosses profiting at the workers' expense. How anyone can object to what Ed has said today is beyond me, but there again many turkeys vote for Christmas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    797.Five Stars "We were in an era of unprecedented global growth. Other countries lowered their debt ratio more, e.g. Germany & Canada."

    That's an irrelevance. The poster like many Tories tells lies about the economy under Labour. This link, by a Tory, refutes it.

    Tories 1979-97 had crashes when no one else did

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    796.This is a colleague announcement
    I agree. Exclusivity is wrong.
    Somehow we have managed to keep unemployment low in this recession (Credit to both governments).
    I graduated in the 1980s when unemployment was 40% in my city. You never thought you'd work. That experience gives you a different attitude towards unemployment. Just look at Spain & Greece and the despair it has produced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    Nice soundbite. Probably won't though. It's a shame as something really needs to be done about them. Horrendous that they even exist, as much as people like to tell you, you do not live to work , you work to live. These make people wait on the edge far too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    Millipede and his cronies should just hand themselves into a police station for crimes against the country. Does he really think people have such short memories, zero hour contracts existed long before this gov.

  • Comment number 802.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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