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Zero hours ‘tip of iceberg of flexible working abuse’


A study by Cambridge University researchers has revealed that flexible working practices, including controversial zero hours contracts, are damaging employee health.

Problems such as anxiety, stress and depression occur when managers abuse flexible working to induce employees to accept an unpredictable employment schedule.

The study was based on interviews with staff in US and UK supermarkets, and included observing employees in their work environment as well as talking to union representatives.

It found that extreme part-time contracts, such as zero hours, offer little security of guaranteed hours and force workers to work overtime to make enough money to live on.

Other types of variable scheduling criticised in the report were ‘labour matching’ and ‘key-time’ contracts.

‘Labour matching’ sees managers rearrange shifts to meet forecasts in customer demand, while ‘key-time’ means workers are given limited core hours and asked to state extra times they can work, then employers can demand staff work any hours within these times with just 24 hours’ notice.