DEBATE: Should the next government force employers to give employees on zero-hours contracts the “right to request” fixed hours?
YES – Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Introducing the right to request fixed hours from their employer is a sensible way of enabling zero-hours workers, who want more certainty over their hours, to raise the issue with their employer.
CIPD research has found that many zero-hours workers enjoy the flexibility of having no set hours of work, often because they have fluctuating demands in their personal life such as caring responsibilities or studying. It can also be useful for older people who want to reduce their hours while continuing to be employed in later life. It’s in employers’ interests to ensure flexibility works for everyone and to create inclusive workplaces that support and engage their workforce, all of which help to drive positive business outcomes.
Allowing workers to request more consistent hours of work builds on their existing right to request more flexible hours of work, and is a logical step. Employers could still refuse requests for legitimate business reasons, but this proposal is a practical compromise.
NO – Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute
The more riders you tack onto a job offer, the more expensive it is to make job offers. The more expensive it is to make job offers, the fewer you get. The UK’s relatively flexible labour laws are the key reason why our labour market is able to respond so well to shocks – and why employment is at a record high, while unemployment is the lowest it’s been for 12 years. Employees on zero hours contracts can already request more hours if they want them; however, surveys suggest they are already happier with their work-life balance than their full time counterparts, with many young workers valuing their flexibility as much as employers do. But any beefed up right would risk the very jobs this contract form supports. Instead, it would be a small step on a road to an Italian or Portuguese labour market, and a first step that Prime Minister Theresa May should not take.