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Zero-hours Contracts

Volume 571: debated on Thursday 5 December 2013

During the summer, the Department undertook a fact-finding exercise to explore how these contracts are used and to identify the issues involved. We found that this type of contract worked well in some circumstances, but could be open to abuse. As a result, we have committed to publishing a consultation seeking views on zero-hours contracts and proposals to address the concerns raised. It will be published shortly.

Does the Minister accept that job insecurity has nearly doubled since 2010 and will she support Labour’s policy, which would stop zero-hours contracts that require workers to work exclusively for one business and end the misuse of zero-hours contracts where employees are, in practice, working regular hours over a sustained period?

I commend the hon. Lady for her consistency on his issue and for raising this concern on behalf of her constituents and others. Exclusivity was one of the issues we found in the fact-finding exercise over the summer to be of real concern, so that will be one of the issues that we will look at further in the consultation. We will also consider whether the transparency of information can be improved between employers and employees, so that there is a bit more certainty about what is expected on both sides of the contract. Used well, these contracts should provide flexibility in our labour market that can benefit both employers and employees.

I am grateful to the Minister for her written replies to my questions of 21 November, but will she ensure that the consultation addresses the parallel abuses where employees appear to be engaged as subcontractors as a way of masking the fact that they are being paid below the national minimum wage so that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs find it difficult to enforce the national minimum wage regulations?

My hon. Friend raises an issue about subcontractors. Clearly, we have robust enforcement processes in place for the national minimum wage, but I know that there are concerns in some industries about false self-employment as well. The Government are well aware of that. I hope that my hon. Friend will have just a little more patience before hearing more about what we might do about that. I definitely agree that we must ensure that people are not exploited in the labour market by being forced on to contracts that deny them their basic employment rights.