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Zero-hours Contracts

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 8 January 2015

8. If he will take steps to ensure that employees working on zero-hours contracts who are in practice working regular hours over an extended period have the right to a fixed-term contract. (906868)

Under flexible working legislation brought in on 30 June 2014, all employees with 26 continuous weeks of service have the right to request flexible working from their employer. Employees on zero-hours contracts can request a change in their contracts, which could of course include a request to move to fixed hours.

Over Christmas, Radio Nottingham carried reports of a zero-hours worker at SportsDirect who was so worried about missing a shift that he went into work despite being critically ill. I have heard from constituents working in health and social care who dare not raise concerns about health and safety or quality of care for fear of losing all their hours. Is it not now absolutely clear that the only way to end that exploitation is to vote Labour on 7 May?

Unsurprisingly, I disagree with the perspective at the end of the hon. Lady’s question. I agree that there are serious issues with zero-hours contracts. Although they work well for many people, as backed up by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development surveys, there are other examples—she highlights some from her constituency—where that type of contract is not used as it should be. That is why we are taking action through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to ban exclusivity clauses and why we are going further, with the development of sector-specific guidance to show what the proper and responsible use of these contracts looks like.

The Minister will be aware that in parcel and distribution services there is not only widespread use of zero-hours contracts but, as we have seen with the collapse of City Link, increased use of self-employed contractors, who have ended up with no rights to redundancy, with losing pay, and with being increasingly abused. How will the Minister regulate the sector so that we halt this race to the bottom in labour conditions?

The hon. Lady raises a genuine point. The Government do recognise this as an area of concern, particularly as regards different employment statuses. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary announced a review of employment statuses so that there can be greater clarity about the issues and we can see whether we need to make changes to the way in which different employment statuses are currently set out. The review is ongoing and we expect it to report over the next couple of months.