Zero Hour Contracts (version hi, today we like you)


It didn’t go to plan.  At all.  He said he loved you and gave you two beautiful children who fling spaghetti everywhere but it doesn’t matter because then they look up at you and call you mummy and the world stops because you’re melting.

Except it does matter.

The more spaghetti they fling, the less there is to put on the table.  And spaghetti is getting expensive.  You know that thing you used to do before your world became the Thorpe Park of yogurt dribble and Calpol?  The thing you used to go to every morning and wrap up with a large white wine afterwards?  That was it.  A job.

It’s 9.20am.  The application form you left out last night is now a paper aeroplane.  You would print off a new one but somebody decided printer ink would make a suitable replacement for the squeezy paint you couldn’t buy because there’s just no money.

Well, if you’ve got no money, they say.  Get a job.

Zero hour contracts get a bad rep. You’re lazy.  Trying to pass yourself off as employed whilst barely working.  Well, yes, perhaps, if you’re a drop-out student who just cannot part with the luxury that is sleeping til noon followed by Le Grand Brunch of Pot Noodle.  But there’s another demographic out there, who want in.

I present to you the working mum.  She spends 81 minutes a day looking after her children (OECD).  The working dad, at just 43 minutes- well that just flat-out breaks my heart.  So this begs the question: if they need to work, want to work but don’t want to raise a child whose bond with his carer trumps his bond with his parents, what exactly is so wrong with zero hour contracts to prompt calls to ban them entirely?

It’s not rocket science.  A happy worker is a productive worker. It forms the backbone of any HR project worth its salt.  A human being operates at optimum functionality when his/ her symbiotic state says yes, much like Goldilocks (who too needs her porridge just right), I have just the right amount of salt. Put me under too much stress and I’ll lose all my salt.  I will suffer and so will my children.

Give me too little salt, and I will be under-productive.  My children will not be amused by beans on toast for the sixth night in a row and I will spend my days rummaging around my flat, desperately seeking that thing I used to have they call self-esteem.

Now give me just the right amount.  Ah, and the lord spake and it was good.

So what is ‘good’?  Well, good is happy.   And if happy means seeing my child mastering lunch with me still working, it comes as no surprise that CIPD surveys find zero hour contract workers “just as satisfied with their jobs as the average UK employee”.  Perhaps this is due to flexibility, with zero hour contract workers finding the resulting increased quality of their productivity in fact drives employers to choose them above standard workers (the employer here, benefits too).  Zero hour contract employees are still employees and as such, not excluded from insurance. Neither are they obligated to source their own work policies or any procedures for their clients.

But there are downsides.  Not entitled to maternity leave, redundancy payment, and often left wanting to commit to more hours, life as a zero hour contract worker is tough.  Poor credit ratings and running the risk of being deemed ‘inflexible’ all point towards a potentially bleak future.

But let’s not forget who we’re looking at, here.  The zero hour contract employees themselves.  What are they saying?  The CIPD again reports that “only 14% report their employer often or very often fails to provide them with sufficient hours to have a basic standard of living” and “80% saying they are never penalised for being unavailable to work”.  Perhaps most demonstrative of contentment within the sector, “80% are not looking for another job” (Work Foundation).

I have zero contracts, zero mortgage, zero husbands and zero children. I really should write more about things that really really affect me.


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