With recent news that even Buckingham Palace uses workers on a zero hour contract basis it must be obvious that this is the way that employers want to go.
At the moment the employer holds all the cards and some seem to be using this system to lock employees in to the company's requirements while cutting the wage bill to the bone. But maybe there's a better way.
Unlike self employment or agency work where you can work for who you like, a zero hour contract means you have to be on call for the one 'employer' only who does not have to pay you except for the hours actually worked. No sick pay for example. This puts huge uncertainty on people and also strains on budgeting etc.
The Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has today revealed that the law could be changed to prevent this 'unacceptable uncertainty'.
The Green Party has also called on the Coalition Government to ban zero-hours contracts.
Two days after it emerged that retailer Sports Direct employs 20,000 staff on zero-hours terms, the Guardian has established that Buckingham Palace, the royal family's London residence, hire workers under the controversial employment practice it said.
"That workers in Buckingham Palace, home to some of the most privileged individuals in Britain who are supported by extensive public funding, should be employing workers on zero-hours contracts, committing them to be available to work without guarantee of work, is deeply disturbing,” said Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader.
"The Palace should be changing these arrangements immediately and guaranteeing the workers a stable income for the term of their employment.
"Zero-hours contracts put workers in an invidious position, uncertain if they're going to have enough money to pay their rent, the food bills and other essentials.
“The ice-cream shop that calls staff in or not on the basis of the next day’s weather forecast might be maximising its profits, but its putting its workers in an impossible situation – and ensuring that the state has to pay corporate welfare to cover the shortfall.
“Zero-hours contracts should be banned, and I'd urge every shopper to consider the list of companies that use them, and consider whether they want to give their shopping dollars to them."
Protests against zero-hours contracts outside Sports Direct stores are planned for this weekend.
But why not look at this another way. The only problem here is that workers are not being paid properly for their flexibility. I would think that some people would be quite happy to work on this basis if there was more of a level playing field. There must be ways to achieve this that would retain the benefits for the employer but reward the employee.
There could be a minimum weekly wage to be paid to the worker, say Â£100, with hourly rates being paid on top of at least the minimum wage. Add in that the employer pays all the National Insurance contributions (at a minimum of class 2 rates) and it might start looking a bit more acceptable. So the minimum the worker would get every week for doing no hours would be Â£102.70p, with Â£2.70p going in NI. That way the employer is unlikely to take on more zero hour contract staff than they would absolutely need to remain properly flexible. And the employees get something for being flexible as well as having their pension kept topped up. There would also be an incentive for the employer to use these employees, not just leave them on the books.
This could be applied to any contract of zero or just a few hours where the worker has to be on less than seven days notice for call out to work to get paid whilst being locked in to one employer.
The nation's statistics of the numbers of people 'employed' might also start to look a little more realistic.