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Are Zero Hour Contracts as Bad as People Make Out?

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Amidst the recent media furore surrounding zero-hour contracts, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re something straight out of the Victorian era. But are they really as bad as they’re made out?

With billionaire Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley speaking last week in front of the Business Select Committee, and union chiefs arguing some staff work in conditions akin to a “gulag”, the issue isn’t going away any time soon.

Kevin Brady, Director of job search engine AdView – who appeared on talkRADIO this week to discuss the controversial issue – was on hand to offer his insight.

Mr Brady told us:

“Whilst zero hour contracts have faced plenty of criticism in the press recently, the issue isn’t as black and white as it’s sometimes presented.

According to the ONS roughly 800,000 people in the UK are currently working in zero hour contracts. A majority of these are either students, young people and women. As for whether they’re as bad as people make out – it really depends on your employer.

Whilst it’s important to remember that many people enjoy the flexibility of zero hour contracts – working parents, students and so on – others may be less keen.

People sometimes forget that these types of contracts have been around for a while and there are many brands that heavily rely on them. They can be found in pretty much every sector – public private, charities. Put simply, they’re more prevalent than ever.”

One thing that seems to be absent from the media conversation is a solid definition of what a zero hours contract actually is. How do they actually differ from traditional fixed term-roles?

Mr Brady continued:

“A zero hours contract is a type of contract between an employee and employer in which employees are on call to work when needed – however employers don’t have to give them work and they don’t have to work when asked themselves.

Crucially, zero hour workers are entitled to statutory leave and national minimum wage just like anyone else.”

Are these types of jobs advertised on AdView and other popular job search sites?

“As far as AdView is concerned, we do advertise zero hour contracts because many people want that choice.”

Our algorithms ensure that we filter out those that don’t meet the minimum wage or other requisites – we only advertise legitimate vacancies. We have hundreds of thousands of jobs advertised on at any one time.

61% of our users are 34 or under – and we know from the ONS that 38% of these types of contracts are held by workers between the ages of 18 and 24.

That said, we also have thousands of graduate jobs, apprenticeships and so on – so there are plenty of options specifically available for young people. At the end of the day we believe it’s all about choice for the job seeker.”