1. Analyse the reasons for protests against the use of zero-hours contracts by firms (12m)

    Zero-hour contracts harm the workers by reducing their job stability. If their employer doesn’t want to give them any hours, they don’t have to. This means that many vulnerable workers who need to work so many hours in order to achieve a living salary are not guaranteed the hours they need to work. This will add unnecessary stress to their lives and also reduces their bargaining power, as they may have to persuade their employer to offer the additional hours to them rather than another employee. Some employees have also been cut out of benefit/bonus schemes due to being on a zero-hour contract. These contracts do not guarantee them the same benefits employees on other, more standard, contracts might expect. Because of this, many people on zero-hour contracts suffer from various forms of mistreatment by management.

    The industries where greater numbers of employees are being moved to zero-hour contracts are typically characterised by high labour turnover, low employee skill and low morale. Because of this, there is higher absenteeism and companies such as McDonald’s would argue that offering casual workers sick pay and guaranteed hours would create additional problems as employees frequently do not attend shifts anyway.

Feedback: Good knowledge, lacking application, needs more depth

  1. To what extent do you believe that governments around the world should follow New Zealand in banning zero-hour contracts? Justify your view. (20m)

    In my opinion, the existence of zero-hour contracts is not bad. Many casual workers benefit from not being stuck working a strict set of hours, and it gives employers greater flexibility to adapt to demand. However, older employees or people who are working out of necessity rather than for some extra cash deserve to be protected and promised a certain degree of stability in their working life.

    Companies like “Outdoor Sports” are arguing for the continued use of zero-hour contracts due to the flexibility it offers their staff. Unfortunately, some employees from Outdoor Sports reported being excluded from the company’s bonus scheme, which suggests that Outdoor Sports sees employees on a zero-hour contract as cheap labour rather than a valuable asset. By excluding their lowest employees from bonus schemes, they are forcing people who already likely earn less than the national average to sacrifice the ability to earn more for their hard work. This system seems backwards and is something that should be corrected by the government or a regulator.

    It is worth also noting that companies like Outdoor Sports claim that the presence of zero hour contracts enables them to perform business viably, by allowing them to reduce costs and decide upon shifts at short notice. If removing or over regulating zero-hour contracts would genuinely lead to the collapse of employers, then there are other issues that need to be addressed. Retailers reporting slow or no financial growth are already struggling and as the UK high street continues to decline due to the rise of internet shopping it is possible that enforcing strict regulations could result in the death of the remaining physical stores. Whilst this issue would be wider than the one being discussed, it might prevent the government from being able to legislate effectively.

    In summary, I would oppose a ban on zero-hour contracts due to the fact that I believe many casual workers do benefit from them and due to the fact that many companies seem to be in a struggling financial situation. However, it is important that workers are not exploited and that appropriate measures, including new legislation, is taken to ensure workers on these contracts are protected from abuses and have clear rights to allow them to work with a bit more peace of mind.

Accurate knowledge, good response, more depth required, insufficient evaluation (evaluate each point)