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.

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

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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.

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Zero-hours contracts makes business sense”

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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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