- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
The Welsh Government will review the use of zero-hour contracts by organisations that receive public money, it has been announced.
Responding to a question by Joyce Watson on Wednesday (17 July), the Minister of Communities and Tackling Poverty, Jeff Cuthbert said he shared the Mid and West AM’s concern about the use of controversial employment contracts in the public sector.
Mrs Watson argued that zero-hour contracts, which do not guarantee employees a fixed number of hours per week, penalise low-paid workers. She said:
“Zero-hour contracts are flexible, but they bend one way – the way of employers.
“Will the Welsh Government argue the case for genuine flexibility within the benefits system, so that hard-working people on zero-hour contracts are not unfairly penalised? Furthermore, Minister, together with your colleague, the Minister for Local Government and Government Business, will you also remind Welsh local authorities that, even when they outsource contracts, they still have a responsibility for the employment rights of that publicly paid-for workforce?”
Fluctuations in income that often come with a zero-hours contract can make it difficult for people to manage household budgets, organise childcare, and to access tax credits and other benefits. A single parent needs to work 16 hours a week in order to claim Working Tax Credit, while a person without children aged 25 or over needs to work at least 30 hours a week to claim the benefit.
The Minister responded:
“The UK Government, which is responsible for employment policy, has said that it has launched a review of the use of zero-hour contracts. I look forward with interest to examining the findings of that report.
“I share the sentiments that you express. I will certainly raise the matter with my ministerial colleagues to ensure that those responsible for the relevant department are aware of this issue. I am going to assess those organisations, shall we say, that receive public funds, to see what use they are making of zero-hour contracts.”
Research conducted by Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has revealed that almost 370,000 health and care staff are on the controversial contract. According to the Office for National Statistics the number of people employed on zero-hours contracts rose from 134,000 in 2006 to 208,000 in 2012. However, a recent report by the Resolution Foundation suggests the real figure is likely to be much higher.
The UK Government is expected to report on its review of zero hour contracts in the autumn.