Zero hours: 'It suits my lifestyle and gives me flexibility'

Fast food workers

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

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

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

BBC News website readers share their experiences of such contracts.

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Luke Hutchison, Riccarton, Edinburgh

Luke Hutchison

I am a first-year student at Heriot-Watt University studying accountancy and I also work at McDonald's to support my income.

I am on a zero-hours contract there but for me it is not a bad thing.

There are always plenty of hours going and I can take as much time off as I want, which is very handy if you want to go on long holidays or study for exams.

I think the door swings both ways. As a student if I want to study or go home and see my parents it is easy for me to do. My employer is very flexible if I need more or less hours.

I understand that if you have a mortgage to pay, not having guaranteed hours could be a problem.

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Rachel, Andover

I am a support worker for a charity and I am on a zero-hours contract. I've had zero-hours contracts for three of my jobs, all in the care sector. I feel the only person to benefit from such contracts is the employer.

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The only person to benefit from such contracts is the employer”

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There is supposed to be no obligation on both sides to offer or accept work - however, I have not been able to "decline" the offer of work without running the risk of losing hours over the following weeks. It is frowned upon and deemed not acceptable to decline the work, but they can cancel or withdraw hours without the same risks. If they give me more than 24 hours' notice then I do not get paid.

My wages vary between £1,200 a month and £800.

I have accumulated some small debt as I do not always have enough to pay essential bills when I have a month of low wages.

I have two children and do sometimes wonder why I bother working at all?

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Zero-hours contracts are effectively permission for employers to treat employees badly ”

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I don't agree with it but I can see why people rely upon and live off benefits rather than work. At least they know exactly what they are getting and their home is safe (housing benefit will cover that).

I think zero-hour contracts are effectively permission for employers to treat employees badly without any legal repercussions as the employee rarely has a leg to stand on when they want to complain.

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Dale, Redhill

Dale

I have been working on a zero-hours contract for five years and have two zero-hours contracts that run side by side. It suits my lifestyle and gives me a flexibility that I would not otherwise have.

Normally for me when one company is not very busy the other is, so there is a flow of work.

For me they fit my family life due to having three children at school and a wife in college. This means I need to take time off to walk the children to and from school, and I also like to make sure I can attend any school plays.

Start Quote

The upside is that I see my family more than most people do”

End Quote

The downside is that when we go away for a week it can be a little tougher and I often have to say no to the treats in life.

The upside is that I see my family more than most people do.

As long as the bills get paid we are content.

I would like to see more rights in my favour, mostly bonus-related issues. Full-time workers get bonuses and will be entitled to shares if the company is floated on the stock market. I am not entitled to this, yet I could be working 30 to 40 hours a week for most of the year.

It leaves a bitter taste when you work as hard as the full-timers but are not rewarded the same.

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Carl, York

We are a small security company that supply security operatives to our clients and most of our workforce are on zero-hour contracts. This approach is flexible for the employer and the employee.

Start Quote

Zero-hours contracts makes business sense”

End Quote

For us, zero-hours contracts make business sense due to the nature of the industry. Most clients only require services for a short period of time, for events or due to a security breach.

We have an open policy for zero-hour contracts within the business which includes no restrictions whatsoever on our employees working for other employers (providing that it isn't affecting their ability to carry out duties when they work for us ), and they have no obligation to work any shifts.

All our employees also know and feel that if they are offered a shift but they refuse due to other commitments, we don't hold a grudge and there are no hard feelings.

I am in support of new regulation that enforces certain criteria surrounding zero-hours contracts as it will provide reassurance for employers and employees.

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More of your comments

Our business, of which I am the FD, uses these extensively. We are a charity that operates leisure centres on behalf of the local authority. Whilst we have contracted staff for the core opening hours, we need casual or zero hours to fill the voids left by sickness, holiday and weekly shifts in the number of users. These contracts suit both parties. The proposals would mean higher costs and therefore higher prices (of a larger bill to the local authority). A poor decision designed to win votes rather than help the country. Rob, Rothwell

I work in a business that uses zero-hours contracts or "casual contracts". We usually offer them because it suits our business needs and we have to be flexible as business is unpredictable. Our zero-hour contracts offer a higher hourly wage than some contracted employees as holidays are not included. I think it's a very bad idea to change the current set-up as employers may be forced to give up offering work completely as it does not suit the business. Nobody forces someone to take up a zero-hour contract. If they don't like the contract then work can be found elsewhere or they can wait for a contracted role to become available. Martyn

As a worker who recently left a zero-hours contract for a company that uses and abuses them to the maximum, I find such contracts deplorable. I lived each month in uncertainty and without hope, terrified that an innocent mistake or simple whim of management could leave me without enough hours to make my rent, let alone the other costs of living. Indeed, the reason I left the job was precisely that: despite being a dependable hard worker, achieving higher-than-average sales results, my hours were repeatedly cut over a period of months to half what I needed them to be for a sustainable living. I recognise that for some, zero-hours contracts can be useful. For most that I witnessed, they were a source of fear for those who suffered them, and a source of power to be frequently abused for the managers who controlled them. Ted Brandt

Interviews by Helen Dafedjaiye

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  15.  
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    • Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell said: "Good night for Ed, neutral for Kay, bad for Jeremy, dire for Dave."
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  17.  
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  19.  
    @benatipsosmori Ben Page, Chief executive of Ipsos MORI

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  20.  
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  21.  
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    Ed Miliband (L) and David Miliband (R) embrace at Labour Party conference in September 2010

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  38.  
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  46.  
    ‏@faisalislam Faisal Islam, Political editor, Sky News

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  48.  
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  51.  
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  52.  
    22:47: SNP verdict

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  53.  
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  54.  
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  55.  
    22:44: Pic: Ed Miliband and Jeremy Paxman share a smile
    Miliband and Paxman
     
  56.  
    @paulwaugh Paul Waugh, Editor, PoliticsHome

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  57.  
    22:43: Hague's verdict

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  58.  
    22:40: Mirror verdict

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  59.  
    @MarinaHyde Marina Hyde, Guardian columnist

    tweets: Went to one of the spin rooms in 2010. A definite two-bath event.

     
  60.  
    @rupertmurdoch Rupert Murdoch

    tweets: Thanks for 2 mentions, Ed Miliband. Only met once for all of 2 minutes when you embarrassed me with over-the-top flattery.

     
  61.  
    22:38: Pic: Miliband finished, now for the spin...
    Spin room
     
  62.  
    @TheEconomist The Economist

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  63.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard, Chief political correspondent, Financial Times

    ‏tweets: The press room at Sky HQ has gone spin-tastic. William Hague: "Miliband had a series of disconnected policies that don't add up."

     
  64.  
    @Jeremy_Hunt Jeremy Hunt, Tory health secretary

    tweets: The more we saw of Ed M the less he felt like a PM

     
  65.  
    @campbellclaret Alastair Campbell

    tweets: Good night for Ed, neutral for Kay, bad for Jeremy, dire for Dave

     
  66.  
    22:33: Independent front page
    Independent front page
     
  67.  
    22:32: Post match analysis

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  68.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Labour are confronting the - is your leader up to it issue head on. All the tough guy stuff no coincidence.

     
  69.  
    @DavidWooding David Wooding, Political editor, Sun on Sunday

    tweets: Bet both Cameron and Miliband would have preferred a head-to-head than separate maulings by Paxo. But both survived it. #BattleForNumber10

     
  70.  
    22:28: We're all alright

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  71.  
    22:28: Pic: Paxman finishes interview and asks 'You alright?'
    Sky interview
     
  72.  
    22:27: Tough enough?

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  73.  
    @georgeeaton George Eaton, Political editor, News Statesmen

    tweets: Miliband clearly better-prepared than Cameron - advantage of not being PM. #BattleForNumber10

     
  74.  
    22:27: Geek?

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  75.  
    22:26: Star front page
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  76.  
    22:25: Media image

    Ed Miliband says criticism of him in the media are "water off a duck's back". The thing I have learned most in this job, he says, is to be yourself. He has stood up for the things he believes in, he says. "I don't care about what the newspapers say... I care about British people and what happens to them," he says.

     
  77.  
    22:25: Tough enough

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  78.  
    @MASieghart Mary Ann Sieghart

    tweets: "Keep the language simple, Ed." "OK - can I use words like 'consequentials' and 'redistribution' then?" No! #BattleForNumber10

     
  79.  
    22:23: Trident

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  80.  
    haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk Get involved

    Charlotte in Baildon writes: Utterly appalled by Paxman's inconsistent approach to these interviews. Cameron allowed to answer questions fully and Miliband hardly allowed to answer before he's interrupted and hit with another question. Not impressed.

     
  81.  
    haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk Get involved

    ARC Cornwall writes: The most impressive person in these debates was definitely Jeremy Paxman. Why can't we have him as Prime Minister? No weasel words or wishy-washy views with him at least. I'd vote for the Paxman Party any day.

     
  82.  
    22:22: Miliband to Paxman: You won't decide election
    Paxman interview
     
  83.  
    22:20: Mansion tax

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  84.  
    22:18: Energy bills

    On energy policy, Ed Miliband used to believe in raising energy bills, now he wants them to fall, Jeremy Paxman says. Mr Miliband says that isn't the case - he didn't think higher bills would tackle climate change. He always said energy bills should be fair, he adds.

     
  85.  
    @matthancockmp Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk. Minister for Business, Enterprise and Energy

    tweets: On this evidence, can anyone imagine Ed Miliband standing up to Putin? #BattleForNumber10

     
  86.  
    22:18: 'Give us a clue'
    Audience

    The audience enjoys Miliband struggling to specify which programmes the Labour leader thought were examples of over-spending under the previous government. He was asked: "Did you spend too much?" by Jeremy Paxman, who then pressed: "Give us a clue, come on."

     
  87.  
    22:17: Cuts?

    What would you cut, Ed Miliband is asked. There are going to be reductions in spending outside some protected areas, he says. Labour is going to make these decisions in government, Ed Miliband says. He adds his overall approach is based on fair taxes and cutting spending. Would overall spending go up? No, it is likely to fall, Ed Miliband says.

     
  88.  
    22:15: Economic forecasts

    Haven't you got your economic forecasts wrong under this government, Jeremy Paxman says. Ed Miliband defends his figures - he says wages have fallen. David Cameron says things are good, Mr Miliband says. He doesn't think things are ok.

     
  89.  
    22:15: The future

    Government make mistakes, there are always inefficiencies, Ed Miliband. But let's talk about the future, he adds. "Yes let's," says Paxman. It's getting a bit feisty.

     
  90.  
    22:14: Where did Labour go wrong?

    What else did Labour get wrong when last in power, Jeremy Paxman asks. Ed Miliband, in addition to immigration, adds the party was "too relaxed about inequality". Asked if they borrowed too much, Ed Miliband said the figure was high because of the global financial crisis. He says no government gets it completely right.

     
  91.  
    22:13: Immigration figure

    "I'm not going to pluck a figure out the air on migration," Ed Miliband says. "There's no finite limit?" Jeremy Paxman asks.

     
  92.  
    @BuzzFeedUKPol BuzzFeed UK Politics
    Miliband at Sky leader interview

    tweets: For sale: one lectern, barely used, one careful owner. #BattleForNumber10

     
  93.  
    22:12: Pic: Paxman says 'you're making up a question to yourself'
    Jeremy Paxman
     
  94.  
    22:12: Population size

    We can get low-skilled migration down, Ed Miliband says. But he won't be drawn on numbers as Jeremy Paxman asks if a population of 75m or 80m was too many people.

     
  95.  
    22:10: Immigration

    Jeremy Paxman starts on immigration - and whether Britain is full. Ed Miliband says he wouldn't describe it that way; we have high levels of migration that need to be reduced, but he says he won't make false promises. He admits Labour has got it wrong before on the issue.

     
  96.  
    22:10: Pic: Miliband's grilling commences
    Sky studio
     
  97.  
    22:06: The fourth quarter

    Next up, Ed Miliband is quizzed by Jeremy Paxman.

     
  98.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Associate editor, Daily Mirror

    ‏tweets: Mili accepts Lab was wrong not to regulate banks more toughly. Too true

     
  99.  
    22:04: Pic: Half time break
    Ed Miliband
     
  100.  
    22:03: Lessons learned?

    Have you learned from the mistakes of the last Labour government, Ed Miliband is asked. We were wrong on the regulation of the banks, Ed Miliband says. "I'm sorry we got it wrong", he adds, "but we've learned the lesson". Has Ed Balls learned the lesson the questioner asks - "yes" says Mr Miliband.

     

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