Business Secretary Vince Cable today ruled out an outright ban on the use of zero-hours contracts, saying they offered employers "welcome flexibility".

He made the comments as he launched a 12-week Government consultation into their use.

A recent DNCC survey of local businesses found that one in ten respondents reported using zero-hours contracts, with two-thirds of those saying it was because their organisation required the flexibility these contracts allow.

Others used them to:

• Retain skills of experienced staff who have retired but are willing to carry on working on an "as and when" basis

• Offer work to temporary staff when available

• Enable firms to cope with peaks in demand

• Cover sickness and holidays

Chris Hobson , Head of Information and Representation at the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire Chambers of Commerce, said:

Zero Hour Clock"Zero-hours contracts offer many businesses and employees genuine flexibility, so its good to see the Business Secretary rule out a complete ban on their use.

"However, there is currently no clear definition of what zero-hours contracts are or how they should work and this consultation is a welcome opportunity to address this and ensure there is best practice surrounding their use.

"Much of the negativity surrounding zero-hours contracts misunderstands the role they can play in creating and protecting jobs. Zero-hours contracts are a vital part of a successful jobs market, but they must be fair, transparent and work for all parties, for example, workers on zero-hours contracts should not be prevented from working elsewhere when not needed."

Businesses can take part in the consultation here.

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