Zero hours, infinite flexibility

15 August 2013
Zero hours, infinite flexibility

In an unpredictable industry such as hospitality we must have the option of zero-hours contracts, says Fare of London managing director John Durden

According to statistics from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the hotel, catering and leisure industries are responsible for almost 50% of those working under zero-hours contracts.

The figures, which revealed that more than a million workers could be employed under these contracts, caused uproar as they imply that a much higher number are employed under these terms than revealed by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year.

Naturally, this has resulted in the usual media hype and finger pointing, with national newspapers highlighting the high number of zero-hours staff large hospitality and retail companies employ.

The zero-hours contract is the only way managers can react quickly to fluctuating staffing needs. Our industry will always require a flexible workers' market, and there is a huge difference between the use of these contracts in hospitality as opposed to other sectors that may use them to simply keep staff in line.

The current issue as publicised in the media seems to focus on many of the larger branded chains in the industry. Often, with a higher staff turnover, larger chains will focus less on staff loyalty, whereas individual companies such as ourselves are inclined to retain staff loyalty as they depend on every member of the team.

In spite of what the newspapers might suggest, adopting the zero-hours contract is not a misuse of our rights as an employer. Many of those who work under these contracts are students or workers who seek flexible working hours to fit around other responsibilities.

The worry for the hospitality industry must be that the Government will over-legislate in order to bring in line the minority of employers who are using this type of contract to exploit their workforce. A ban on these contracts could have devastating effects. Many businesses would fail to survive without them.

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