Zero hours contracts and other forms of casual labour can benefit workers and employers in Scotland but our inquiry has shown that, too often, the relationship is unbalanced, leaving the employer with all of the flexibility and few costs and the worker in fear of dismissal, denied access to due rights of employment and, in some cases, earning less than the minimum wage.
The Government recognises that poor practice exists and needs to be addressed but we feel that the UK Government's consultation on zero hours contracts was too narrow. It focused on the issues of exclusivity and transparency which are concerns but addressing them will do little to help workers who are exploited by unscrupulous employers. The Government must do more to protect workers who wish to challenge unfair, unsafe or unlawful conditions of employment.
Workers should be told from the outset of their employment what type of contract they are on and a written contract setting out the terms and conditions must follow within two months. There should be a minimum notice period of work and workers should not be punished for turning down offers of work made within that period. Where workers arrive for work but find none available then the employer should compensate them for the inconvenience. Travel time between appointments should be paid and pay for zero hours workers should accurately reflect the number of hours that are worked to fulfil contracted duties.
Our recommendationswill improve the working conditions of people on zero hours contracts but our overriding conclusion is that, in the majority of cases, zero hours contracts need not and should not be used at all. Organisations in the public and private sector should look first to contracts of employment that offer guaranteed hours and full employment rights. The UK and Scottish Governments must use every lever at their disposal to effect this change in culture.
We accept there are circumstances where workers will be happy to be on zero hours contracts and if both parties are satisfied then those arrangements should continue. Our report focuses on those for whom the arrangements are unsatisfactory, who are suffering from a lack of certainty of employment and who wish to have the security of guaranteed hours of work and the attendant benefits.
This report is an interim one, as it has been timed to contribute to the UK Government's consultation. We now intend to raise these matters with a number of employers, both individually and collectively.