Reform of zero hours contracts could be a defining point of election campaign

Peter McTigueSince writing my last piece for the NTU election blog, the issue of zero hours contracts has featured heavily in the media. In last week’s leader’s debate on Channel 4 David Cameron admitted that he could not work under a zero hours contract and it is clear that the Labour Party are keen to attack on this issue as they believe it exposes weaknesses in Conservative arguments about the strength of the current economic recovery.

At a campaign event in Yorkshire later today, Ed Miliband will say that a future Labour government would guarantee zero hours workers the right to a regular contract after 12 weeks. While further details are yet to be released, this is a key policy pledge by the Labour Party and one that has been welcomed by Trade Unions. Continue reading

What is the future for zero hours contracts?

contractIssues surrounding employment and the economy are set to feature heavily in the run up to this year’s General Election and so the Chancellor must be extremely pleased by the continuing fall in the number of people out of work. The UK’s unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% of the working population, its lowest level for more than 6 years and represents a remarkable turnaround for the UK economy.

Yet data released recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about zero hours contracts shows that many of the jobs being created are low paid and offer little job security.

Zero hours contracts are highly controversial because of the fact that they offer no guarantee of work. Those working in this way often have no idea how many hours, if any, they will be working next week and the lack of a regular wage packet makes budgeting and managing bills extremely difficult. Those working in this way are also more likely to come from groups that traditionally perform poorly in the labour market. So more than half of them are women, roughly a third are aged 16–24 and 6% are over 65. Continue reading

Quality of employment, not quantity, is what matters

Job vacancyDavid Cameron has outlined his plans for the UK to become a nation of ‘full employment’. However, ‘full employment’ was also the aspiration, although never a formal target, of the previous Labour Government.

In a series of policy reviews in 2006 and 2007, including the Leitch Review of Skills, ‘full employment’ was defined as an 80% employment rate – which the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, described as achievable “within a generation.”  At the time, the UK employment was around 73% – it is now back up to this rate, according to the latest Labour Force Survey for October to December 2014. Continue reading