Zero hours contracts have been defended by Vince Cable, the UK Business Secretary, in a statement likely to secure their long-term future as a vital component of the employment market. This is a lead Jersey should follow says Lindsay Edwards-Thatcher of TM Legal Services, a Jersey Employment Law Expert.
Commenting on Vince Cable’s statement she said: “The beneficial element of zero hour contracts is that they enable companies to hire staff even when trading is not optimal, this is particularly important in a recovering economy because employers are being asked to hire. It is encouraging to hear that the UK government has no intention of banning these contracts. Were it not for zero hour contracts, employers would wait until market conditions were perfect, and they could guarantee a certain level of income, before taking people on. That can only stifle economic growth in the Island.”
Following a debate with Deputy Geoff Southern on BBC Radio Jersey this weekend, Lindsay Edwards-Thatcher said that “fewer people would be in work if zero hour contracts were not available to employers. This type of contract is particularly important in industries where income can vary considerably according to market conditions.
“There is no doubt that abuse of zero hour contracts should not be accepted but to blame the contracts themselves is ludicrous. Zero hour contracts are designed for companies that have sharply varying levels of trade and not for firms who can guarantee work will be available day-in, day-out.
“There is a case for ensuring zero hour contracts are policed more effectively but to ban them would only hurt the Island, economically speaking.
“Employers must clearly explain to their employees what a zero hour contract means and that it is not a guarantee of work. In addition, they must not claim exclusivity of a person’s labour. As long as people know and understand the terms of the contract and are able to work elsewhere if they choose during times when they are not needed, then zero hour contracts are perfectly acceptable and should be encouraged.
“I am concerned when people of influence such as Deputy Southern try to get something banned whilst only presenting half of the argument. If he were to succeed in this endeavor, Jersey’s economy would be severely threatened and we would likely see a rise in unemployment, which is something we really can’t afford.
“Given that Deputy Southern claims to be a champion of working people, it is hard to understand why he would put forward a proposal that will threaten people’s jobs.”