A leading Midlands law firm is advising employers to exercise caution when using zero-hours contracts for staff.
Higgs & Sons say the controversial contracts – which give no guarantees of shifts or work patterns – could attract negative publicity to any firms using them and be subject to legal review in the near future.
Simon Bond, a lawyer with Higgs & Sons’ employment team, said while some employers were attracted by the flexibility the contracts offered, they should tread carefully when using them.
Simon said: “There is clearly growing publicity surrounding these contracts and that has led both to organised protests at some companies which use them and consideration of their use by Business Secretary Vince Cable.
“Until the results of that review are known later in the year I would urge any companies thinking of using them to exercise caution. Any regulation, for example making it more difficult to fire staff on such contracts, will of course cut across the flexibility that is seen as the main benefit of using them.”
Simon’s warning came after new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggested up to one million UK workers could be on the zero-hours agreements.
He said the research indicated one in five of all UK employers had at least one employee on the contracts, which were most common in the hotel, catering and leisure industries.
There had been organised protests outside some branches of the sports retailer Sports Direct over its widespread use of zero-hours terms, and the company was now facing a legal challenge over the issue.
“There is also concern in some quarters that they mask the true level of unemployment because people on them may not be working but don’t show in the unemployment statistics,” said Simon.
“The TUC are opposed to them and want them to be made illegal while the Labour Party is concerned although it has not yet come out in support of a ban.
“In this climate, and while the Business Secretary’s review is still pending, it makes sense for any employer to tread very carefully in this area.”
Higgs & Sons works from two offices in the Black Country – Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill and Kingswinford. The firm employs more than 200 people, which includes over 100 specialist lawyers.
For specialist advice for your business relating to employment issues, contact Simon on 0845 111 5050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org