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The Taylor Review of modern working practices – the gig economy and zero hour contracts

20 July 2017

It really feels as if the world is going through a period of significant issues and massive geopolitical changes.

Brexit discussions are now getting to be extremely serious and the results will impact on our economic and political futures at least for the rest of our lives.  Many of us working in industries with international dimensions will have already seen and felt the effects of a recalibration of exchange rates.  

But there are other huge issues domestically which seem to have slipped down the list.  The ongoing announcements around HS2, in a different time and place would be headline news.  But I wonder how many of us, even working in our sector, are fully aware of them.

Likewise, I wonder how much coverage the Taylor Review might have received in a different political atmosphere.

Zero hour contracts were talked about in the General Election and have been since, with some seeing them as a toxic workplace development and others regarding them as central to business flexibility and productivity.

I wonder if the wisdom in the zero hour debates is to be found somewhere in the middle.

All employers need some flexibility from their staff.  The deadline that needs hitting.  The new contract that comes in.  The sickness of a team member.

There are reasonable and genuine reasons why employers need flexibility, and I do not think they get anywhere close to exploitation.  There simply are times when employers need good will and investment from staff.

So I see the need for solutions which allow for flexibility.  But I think I also see when they actually will not deliver the impact they need.  In my experience, the good will of staff is absolutely central to organisational success.  This is why I suspect that an over reliance on zero hour contracts is unlikely to be a successful long term solution for employers.  Employees, who genuinely feel part of the team, who are invested in, surely offer something different than individuals without that sense of attachment.

So I wonder if zero hours contracts are another policy issue where we need to be careful not to lose the baby with the bathwater.  No one supports exploitation of workers.  But nor can we be looking for ways to bring inflexibility back into the labour market.  So if we need to legislate to prevent exploitation, what about introducing a percentage of staff who can be on zero hour contracts?  Or a length of time that you can be registered as such? 

In my experience, the race to the bottom leaves us all a little worse off in the end.  So it’s a race to be avoided.

David Coombes, Founder and Managing Director of Logistics Job Shop

Follow David on Twitter @DavidCoombesSfL