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Zero hour contracts – are they worth your hours?

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(Pic: By Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA (Pedestrian day on Oxford Street) [CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons)

An estimated 883,000 Brits depend on zero hour contracts in as their main source of income according to Office of National Statistics, should hours trump security? Jacob Dickinson reports.

A zero hour contract is a contract between an employer and an employee where the employer is not obliged to offer a minimum amount of hours and the employee is not obliged to fulfil any hours offered by an employer.

Zero hour contracts can be effective in some instances, for example: flexibility allows employees to choose when they work and for how long they work, they can offer a ‘foot in the door’ opportunity for employees to work at a company that does not currently have full or part time contracts available (so when there is a full time contract available the zero hour workers may be first in line) and finally zero hour contracts can offer additional income as employees can choose when they work.

Zero hour contracts are ideal for students – during term time it offers the opportunity to fit work hours in around lectures and seminars, and during half term there is a chance to ramp up hours.

However, if an employee has a family to support and bills to pay then a zero hour contract is far from ideal. Some of the cons are as follows: Unpredictable hours can be a hindrance as there is a chance employees may be called in last minute which can be inconvenient, lower income could also pose as an issue as the employer may not have as many hours available for employees to work and finally employers can put pressure on employees if they do not take the opportunity to work extra hours they run the risk of not being asked to do shifts later on.