Vince Cable turns up the heat on zero hours contracts

Vince Cable is not going to ban the controversial contracts, but will end exclusivity clauses. That's good news for companies and employees.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 22 Sep 2014

Zero hours contracts has been one of those issues politicians love to harp on about without actually understanding, because they think it’ll magically make them seem in touch with the ‘common man’. Lambasting companies that don’t give their staff fixed hours may seem like a vote winner, but it misses the point that many people actually want to work flexibly and their employers aren’t big, bad wolves for letting them.

Good news, then, that Vince Cable is a minister with sense. Instead of giving into the catcalls of Miliband and his band of merry men (and women), the business secretary is going to announce zero hours are here to stay, but exclusivity clauses are out, according to the Telegraph.

Trapping employees without giving them enough hours is not something to be cheered - and the government estimates there are 125,000 tied into exclusivity clauses. But giving students, parents and part-timers the opportunity to fit work around their lives week to week is.

It helps tighten up all that slack in the economy - the ‘productivity puzzle’ the Bank of England is getting so confused about. And it doesn’t really help companies to give people their hours the day before either.

Business groups were, unsurprisingly, pretty pleased. ‘The debate around zero hours contracts has, at times, been hysterical,’ said IoD director general Simon Walker. ‘The government should be congratulated for protecting the valuable elements of such arrangements whilst closing down the loopholes that have generated understandable controversy.’

‘The ban on exclusivity clauses, which bind workers to one firm is a balanced way of addressing concerns,’ said British Chambers of Commerce boss John Longworth. ‘However the government must ensure that any further changes do not jeopardise business flexibility or employment opportunities.’

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