The logistics industry is characteristic in its reliance on agency staff, some of which are on what is known as zero hour contracts. A zero hours contract is when an employer or agency does not offer a guaranteed minimum number of hours per week.
Temporary and part time staff usually work to an agreed number of hours, and for the most part this results in an arrangement that suits both the employer and the worker. It is pretty rare for someone to be working significantly fewer hours than they need to, as these employment contracts are best suited to those with other commitments such as parenthood or education.
The term zero hour contract has been widely referenced in politics, as successive parties vow to reduce or eliminate them. Whilst the Coalition was blamed for presiding over their proliferation, both main parties acknowledge the bad reputation that irregular working contracts have developed.
The reason that zero hour contracts are looked upon so unfavourably is that the employer or agency does not have to offer a set number of hours in a given period. It is therefore a feasible scenario for a worker to go a whole week or longer without being called to work. On balance though, the worker is typically not obliged to accept all or any hours offered. The extremes of this relationship are not sustainable though, as the more one party rejects another, the less likely they are to continue with the arrangement.
The contracted individual is referred to as ‘worker’ rather than ‘employee’ because in many cases they are not actually employed by any company. It’s not unusual for this arrangement to change, indeed many temporary workers go on to become full time, permanent members of staff. The company in question will then save money because they no longer need to pay an agency. It could also be said that the return on investment would be higher because the employee would feel more valued and willing to commit to the needs of the company.
Short-term and casual labour isn’t likely to disappear any time soon because of the fragmented nature of modern working life. Perhaps zero hour contracts will still effectively exist, just under a different name.