Zero-hours workers are happy with work-life balance

Employees on zero-hour contracts are more likely to be happy with their work-life balance than other workers, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Its research, Zero-hour contracts: myth and reality, which surveyed more than 1,000 employees, was published in collaboration with law firm Lewis Silkin to highlight the poor level of understanding among employers about employment rights for zero-hour workers.

The research found that 60% of zero-hours workers are satisfied with their job, compared to 59% of average UK employees.

Zero-hour workers are also happier with their work-life balance (65% versus 58%) and fewer were likely to think they are treated unfairly by their employer (27% versus 29%).

One in five (21%) zero-hours workers believe their pay is lower than comparable permanent staff doing similar jobs, while 11% said that this is the case.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of employers that use zero-hours workers said hourly rates for these staff are about the same as an employee doing the same role on a permanent contract.

Nearly a fifth (18%) said hourly rates for zero-hours staff are higher than permanent employees.

The CIPD research includes a number of recommendations to improve practice in the use of zero-hours contracts, including:

  • Appropriateness: Careful consideration and regular review by employers of whether zero-hours contracts are appropriate for the nature of the work involved, and are offering the right balance of mutual flexibility for employer and employee.
  • Exclusivity: Unless there is a clear business reason, employers should not restrict zero-hours staff from working for another employer when they have no work available.
  • Compensation for last-minute cancellation: Where work is cancelled at short notice, travel expenses and at least one hour’s pay should be paid in compensation.
  • Pay equity: Zero-hours workers should be paid at comparable rates to anyone else doing the same or similar work.
  • Manager training: Line managers should be trained to ensure that the reality of the employment relationship is consistent with the contract and associated employment rights of zero-hours workers.

Peter Cheese (pictured), chief executive of the CIPD, said: “The use of zero-hours contracts in the UK economy has been underestimated, oversimplified and in some cases, unfairly demonised.

“Our research shows that the majority of people employed on these contracts are satisfied with their jobs.

“However, we also recognise that there is a need to improve poor practice in the use of zero-hours contracts; for example, the lack of notice many zero-hours staff receive when work is cancelled.

“If this is unavoidable, then employers should at least provide some level of compensation. In addition, it seems that many employers and zero-hours staff are unaware of the employment rights people on these types of working arrangements may be entitled to.

“The emphasis should be on improving management practice and enforcing existing regulation first, rather than bringing in new legislation that would be extremely hard to do without unintended consequences.  

“Employers that took part in the research told us that if restrictions were placed on employers’ use of zero-hours contracts, they would simply switch to another form of casual labour. 

”Such an approach would also penalise the majority of zero-hours workers that choose these types of working arrangements because they suit their particular circumstances.”