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Zero-hours exclusivity ban ‘a massive step’ in right direction

Wed, 25 Jun 2014
Vince Cable
A leading recruiter said today that Vince Cable’s announcement of a ban on exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts was “a massive step in the right direction” but didn’t go far enough to curb rogue employers.

Mark Mitchell, chief executive of Meridian Business Support, the UK-wide recruitment and consultancy company, told recruiter.co.uk that the business secretary was acting on “the area that causes most insecurity and pain”.

While it was difficult to stop the rogues, he said, “the next steps are setting the guidelines and writing down an ethical code”.

This would help employers know what to do, beyond the advice of lawyers who might agree to measures that were not fair on workers. They were, he said “not going to be your workers for long” if treated unfairly now that work is more plentiful with the economic recovery.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill published today was “pretty much” what people who had attended a round table organised by Meridian in March had wanted.

Mitchell said temporary workers do get “some love” and protection from employment businesses and should consider using an agency through which to provide their services.

Today’s announcement follows a three-month consultation that Mitchell said “has been a costly exercise to reach a common-sense conclusion”.

Guy Stallard, director of facilities at KPMG, said the flexibility means employees will be better able to earn more to help them meet essential living costs: “Far too many people are trapped in what has become known as a cycle of ‘working poverty’, with many struggling to meet family and financial commitments as they try to make ends meet.”

He added: “For businesses, today’s announcement also means they can still retain the flexibility to meet unpredictable or season-led labour requirements.”

But it was, he said, “also important that organisations pay their staff a living wage. A guaranteed income, and one that will ensure they don’t need to worry about paying their rent or food bills, is more likely to build loyalty and motivation to drives the quality of service that customers want to see”.

This was echoed by the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, who said: “The ban is welcome news but it’s not nearly enough to really tackle the problem. A lack of certainty is the real issue. Far too many employees have no idea from one week to the next just how many hours they’ll be working or more importantly how much money they’ll earn. This makes managing household budgets stressful and organising childcare very difficult indeed.

“The one change that would really make a difference would be for employers to have to guarantee their staff a minimum number of paid hours each week.”

Welcoming the ban, Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Tying an employee into an exclusivity clause can turn a flexible contract into a rigid and archaic one.”

Samantha Hurley, head of external relations at recruitment body the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said: “Today’s announcement will curb the worst and most exploitative behaviour by less scrupulous employers.”

Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) head of policy Kate Shoesmith said: “When used appropriately, zero-hours contracts offer people flexibility and increased choice. But we agree that it is important to clamp down on abuse and we support controls on ‘exclusivity’ clauses.”

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