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The Taylor Review (2017) found that the strength of the UK’s labour market is built on flexibility with many benefits for both workers and businesses. In particular zero hours contracts held many benefits for workers such as allowing people to fit their work around their personal lives, including child care responsibilities or studies. 

zero hours contracts shift work cancelled shifts

However, there are also a number of disadvantages for those on zero hour contracts as the following research has shown:

  • The Low Pay Commission found that approximately 1.7 million individuals were very anxious that their working hours could change unexpectedly (source: Government response to one-sided flexibility from the Low Pay Commission, 2018);
  • 17% of low-paid workers who had flexible hours were provided with no more than a day’s notice prior to their shift being cancelled (source: Labour Market Outlook, CIPD, 2018); and
  • Nearly 40% of all UK workers say that their hours ‘tend to vary from week to week’ (source: A Response to government on ‘one-sided flexibility’, Low Pay Commission, 2018).

The Taylor Review found that to ban zero hours contracts in their totality would negatively impact many more people than it helped. The approach therefore is to change how zero hours contracts are regulated to ensure fairness. 

Advancing the Good Work Plan, the Governments response to the Taylor Review, the government will now consult on proposed new measures for flexible workers, including:

  • Compensation for workers when shifts are cancelled at short notice;
  • Entitlement to a reasonable period of notice for allocated shifts; and
  • Additional protections for individuals who are penalised if they do not accept shifts at the last minute

The consultation aims to allow flexible workers to retain the autonomy that suits them, whilst allowing businesses to continue to resource during peaks in demand.

In response to the consultation, the Low Pay Commission Chair, Bryan Sanderson said:

“We are delighted to see the government taking forward our recommendation to consult on these measures … … Last year we looked at the data on one-sided flexibility and talked to workers and businesses across the UK.  Our report, published in December, found that shift cancellations and short notice of work schedules were significant problems, especially for low-paid workers … … The proposed changes, part of a package of policies we suggested, have the potential to improve work and life for hundreds of thousands of people.”

The consultation paper can be found here.

Workers and businesses involved in flexible working are encouraged to engage in the consultation process by answering a series of questions posed in the consultation paper by 11 October 2019.

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Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

 

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If you have any questions relating to this article or if you need to discuss any aspect of flexible working, please contact our employment team on [email protected]

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