Coffee House

Labour’s unimpressive ‘zero hours’ announcement

25 April 2014

9:13 AM

25 April 2014

9:13 AM

Labour’s announcement on zero hours contracts today as the Shadow Cabinet visits Scotland is supposed to be a demonstration of how much better the UK can be by staying together. Ed Miliband’s reasoning is that a border between Scotland and rUK would mean a ‘race to the bottom’ between the two countries, who would come under pressure from ‘powerful interests’ to ‘worsen wages and conditions for everyone else’.

It’s part of Labour’s ‘positive case’ for the union which the party wants to make today, and the reasoning does, if you’re a Labour type, make sense. The only spanner in the works is the policy that he’s announcing, which will hardly set the soul on fire if you’re a Labour type who has been expounding on the evils of these contracts.


Labour would give legal rights to employees to demand a fixed-hours contract when they have worked for the same employer for over six months (although they will not have a right to get the contract they ask for), automatic fixed-hours contracts for employees who have worked regular hours for over a year (unless they opt out), protection from exclusivity clauses or late-notice cancellation of shifts (employers will be forced to compensate staff for this).

This is as far as Labour feels it can go without damaging the labour market, which has demonstrated in the past years the importance of flexibility in keeping people in work when the economy is weak. But it’s not quite a revolutionary trumpet blast on behalf of those who have made the scary zero hours contracts sound like the worst thing that ever happened to workers. If these contracts are so bad, a year working on one before you’re entitled to anything else is still a very long time frothing about in what Chuka Umunna this morning called the ‘tide of insecurity’. Exclusivity clauses were something ministers in the Coalition were looking at too.

Not cracking down on these contracts is perhaps a welcome sign that Labour is realising it can’t, as Dan Hodges warned yesterday, focus solely on what it would do to business without worrying about what its policies would also do to businesses’ ability to employ people. But it’s hardly a great lurch to the left whereby Labour out-lefts the SNP to reassure those crucial working class Labour voters who need convincing of the ‘No’ case in the referendum.

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Show comments
  • No Good Boyo

    So… Employers can take people on for a whole year before they can’t give them zero-hour contracts any more. Any reason they can’t lay them off after eleven months, and give somebody else a zero-hour contract?

    God, these politicians are naive. I suppose this is what comes of never actually having worked in the real world.

  • asalord

    Working-class people of Scotland have, for over a century, put their trust in
    Labour. After all the sacrifices they have made to make the uk a better
    place to work and live in they find themselves at the end of another
    desperate plea by Labour to vote for their policies. Policies which
    include implementation of tory welfare cuts and jam-tomorrow promises of
    more devolution should Scotland vote No.
    Even if labour wins power in Westminster it’s only a matter of time before England returns another tory government.
    is enough. The only way working-class people in Scotland can achieve a
    fairer, more balanced society is to vote Yes in September.

    • HJ777

      So the “Yes” campaign never makes “jam tomorrow” promises then?

      I was under the impression that they were offering free jam on everything to everyone in Scotland, forever, the day after they vote yes.

      Clearly, you are of the opinion that the “working-class people” of Scotland are fools and thus can safely be lied to. You may find that they are not.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Try and get one of these SNPs supporters to acknowledge that independence will throw up massive transition costs which should not be subject to negotiation and should be for the account of Scotland’s taxpayers. Good luck with that one. They take the view that they get to vote for independence and those who don’t get a vote should pick up the costs. Priceless.

        • HJ777

          Trust me, I have tried on many, many, occasions to get “Yes” campaign supporters to acknowledge ANY transition costs of secession.

          They won’t – they just ignore the question.

          The “Yes” campaign’s white paper makes 700 pages of promises but addresses this issue not once.

          I have never seen a single acknowledgement, let alone an assessment, of the transition costs of secession and the impact on GDP by the “Yes” campaign.

          There is a discussion on them here (obviously not from the “Yes” campaign):

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Many thanks for the link. No doubt the contents will be considered blustering and bullying by the cybernats.

    • Kitty MLB

      I assume the honest and decent working-class of Scotland, as well as those
      in England realise that Labour betrayed the working classes more then a decade ago and that new- Labour wrecked the United Kingdom, the consequences we are still living with. And old fellow we do not have a ‘ Tory government’ but a Lib Dem led coalition. Its very odd after everything Labour
      has done that you see Conservatives as the enemy and yet they have not
      been in power for decades.

  • Peter L

    If the Millibot is out to do some good, why doesn’t he abolish “zero-pay” contracts? Those “intern” jobs where the young and ambitious work for nothing just to get a start in life.

    Ah, just thought – many of them work for free for MPs who instead pay public money to their spouses and mistresses for doing bugger all.

    Forget that idea then!

  • swatnan

    We do have an example of what could happen across borders eg Eire/NI and Gibralter/Spain borders. Regardng zero hours, flexibility must be the word; some workers actually like the flexible arrangement; and what job these days provides absolute security anyway? So Labour are being sensible in saying give it a year and see what happens.

    • HookesLaw


    • Denis_Cooper

      A bit naïve; if that was the case then few zero hours contracts would run for a year, even if the others were only a day short of a year.

      That kind of thing is already happening:

      “It is essential to ensure that the contract is less than a year in length. If it is for a year or more, the employee will have the right not to be unfairly dismissed.”

  • McRobbie

    So milies latest star policy is to allow temps to ask for a full time contract after 6 months work..but not get..but to get a full time contract after 12 months ! I presume he has so little experience of the real world that he can’t work out that temps will be “not required” just before their 12 months is up. Thanks milie for putting a load of people on the dole who would certainly be quite happy to continue to work as temps. But heh, practical work solutions and labour policies were never going to meet.

    • HookesLaw

      Milibands policy would lead to the sack after 12 months if the employer could not afford to commit to regular work. Labours attack on the issue is bogus

      • Wessex Man

        much like the Tory policy then!

  • Wessex Man

    oh dear, he’s really going to impress the Scottish Public with this one isn’t he, surely by now the Labour Party membership must realise what a shocking mistake was made choosing this man as Leader.

    • Kitty MLB

      Milipede is quite the most cringeworthy and dim-witted chap ever,
      would hate to think what the good folk of Scotland make of him.

    • HJ777

      To be fair, it wasn’t the Labour Party membership who chose him. If I remember correctly, they wanted his brother – the unions wanted him.

      • Wessex Man

        I know and now he’s taking his debt away from the Co-op Bank to the Union Bank, ever cementing his ties to the brothers!

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Very disappointing. I was going to offer my services to call up the Labour debt and manage its bankruptcy.

      • Kitty MLB

        Oh yes. David ! the anointed one, the lost leader that never was.
        Ed Milipede was suppose to take Labour back to its working class roots, that has not gone too well.

  • EschersStairs

    Increased inflexibility for employers is always a disincentive to job creation because employees represent greater risk. That politicians pretend you can have your cake and eat it is fairyfloss fiction. But that appears to be the genre Miliband gets his policy ideas from.

  • Minnooli

    It’s not a big announcement, but it seems like a fairly sensible bit of administration. Not really something Labour can build an election campaign around though…

  • AnotherDave

    Labour are just following UKIP.

    “I do not believe in banning zero hours contracts. But I do believe there is a very strong case for expecting large employers to sign up to a tough code of conduct as to how they are applied.

    For instance, if an employee proves reliable enough to be working for a big company for a year or more then there should be an expectation that the company will offer him or her a permanent position.”

    • HookesLaw

      So UKIP are as daft as Labour? I’m totally shocked to learn that… shocked I tell you.

      • Wessex Man

        You’re shocked! I’m shocked by your inane ramblings every time I see them, shocked I tell you!

    • HookesLaw

      Remember their poster showing a builder begging because his job taken by a foreigner?
      Turns out it was posed by an actor … from Ireland.

      • AnotherDave

        There has been free movement of people with Ireland ever since the Republic was established.

        If the UK left the EU, irish people would still be able live, work, and vote in the UK.

  • Jez

    This guy who’s family was probably ethnically cleansed from Zimbabwe told me Milliband was Polish?

    I hope this isn’t true.

  • RavenRandom

    Wow. Miliband knocks it out of the park with another marginal tinkering policy. Now I want the union to stay, but this is hardly going to sway the marginal Scottish voter… because if Scotland gets independence they can do what they like with zero hours.
    Where are the Scottish MPs in the independence debate? Keeping their heads down and options open… no doubt they hope to parachute into Scottish Labour if their jobs are lost and Scotland becomes independent.

    • GUBU

      Personally, I’d be delighted if our political class contented itself with marginal tinkering.

      It’s the fact that they genuinely believe they can change things for the better that makes them so bloody dangerous.

      • Count Dooku

        Marginal tinkering is the danger. These things add up but are rarely noticed in isolation.
        Hayek’s Road to Serfdom is about the softly, softly approach.

  • allymax bruce

    More lies from Ed Miliband; he spouts the soundbite of ‘no more zero hours’, but his policy would only happen if a person worked ‘zero hours’ with the same company for over a year! That’s still one whole year one ‘zero hours’, Ed!
    Ed Miliband is another word-twisting Bliar drone; don’t trust anything he says. Always deconstruct everything Ed Miliband says. Why? Because he’s a Labour liar!

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Actually, if you want your criticism to be accurate, Miliband is “another word-twisting Brown drone”.

      • allymax bruce

        I perceive my criticisms&facts are accurate; nothwithstanding whether Ed Miliband is more like Brown or Bliar, he is still a Labour liar. The Labour liar imposition is the most worthy of the accuracy and allusion directed-in the (my) comment.

    • HJ777

      What is your objection to ‘zero hours’ contracts, given that they are voluntary, most people on them are happy with them, and the alternative is often casual work (on zero hours contracts you get employers NI contributions, holiday pay entitlement, etc.)?

      Of course, they won’t suit everyone (but only a very small proportion of the workforce is on them), but they suit many – not least because most people on them have the option to turn work down when it suits their circumstances. They are excellent for people who can’t commit to regular hours.

      • Alexsandr

        they are used by staffing agencies, because they cannot commit to pay people unless they have work for them. An hey are also used by management service companies for those contractor who chose not to have their own company.
        They are an important part of short term work, which is how many want to work.

  • @PhilKean1

    More incoherent economic illiteracy from Labour.

    The number of NET taxpaying households after 13 catastrophic years of Labour maladministration plummeted to just 40% of the population. I wonder what it will fall to after another 5 years?

    Seriously, how much longer are the British public going to keep outdated Labour Socialism on life-support?

    • EschersStairs

      40% is a frightening number.

  • Andy

    He should mind his own bloody business. If someone want to work a zero hours contract that is their business – consenting adults and all that.

    Why are all these left wing idiots so illiberal ?

    • Colonel Mustard

      “Why are all these left wing idiots so illiberal?”

      Because essentially they want to control everything. They think they are always right about everything so that justifies any means to get what they want. Which is that everyone should think like them and conform to their ideology. Their ultimate destination is the supposed utopia of a single party state because they cannot bear any dissent. They want to control what people think, say, write, how they spend their own money and how they behave in every aspect of their lives, all for their own good of course.

      It’s why in recent years there has been a shift from just disagreeing with the right to attempting to demonise it. To de-legitimise it as an alternative political viewpoint by introducing absolute moralities and emotive good vs bad simplifications (their supposed infatuation with diversity doesn’t extend to politics).

      It’s why Blair asserted that Labour was “nothing less than the political wing of the British people as a whole”, why both he and Miliband describe Labour as a “movement” rather than a political party and the imperative behind Miliband’s “one nation” bleating. One nation to do as they say.

      “One nation to rule them all, One nation to find them,
      One nation to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

      • sarahsmith232

        Good post. So agree. They have zero connection to 99% of people in this country yet have convinced themselves that only they are of sufficiently noble moral character to ‘lead’ and ‘save’ us all. The Left in this country has been excusing the fact that majority don’t see this on their ‘false consciousness’ for the last 120yrs. Just exactly how much longer do they need to be able to understand that they’re wrong????!!!!
        When you’ve got to a point in life that you’re so absolutely convinced of your higher moral purpose that you can describe the open-door as justifiable because ‘we were on the side of the angels’ (Blunkett recently) then these are people that have long since lost the plot, lost any connection to reality, never had any connection to most people anyway, have become borderline/with Brown actually, deranged.
        I don’t think any of us need hold our breath waiting for any of the current lot to get any of this.

      • Count Dooku

        I think you are being a bit harsh on Blair. He was a lot of things but he wasn’t an ideologue. As much as I hate the left, a Blair/Darling premiership would have been entirely acceptable to me.

        Love the LoTR reference by the way.

        • Colonel Mustard

          It was not so much Blair as the fellow travellers on his bandwagon especially the unelected ones. The reality of his regime is revealed by how many of those now on the opposition benches were enthusiastic advocates of New Labour. When he came to power there was a sea change as politicisation ran riot through our institutions, most of it mandated on the belief system described rather than any consent from those governed.

          • Count Dooku

            Agreed. It was a culture thing but I think agents like Harman, Benn and Hewitt share a lot more of the blame than St Tone. A lot of the civil service and the quangocrats as well.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Thank you for an excellent thought provoking post. These threads seem to provide a good illustration of the leftist desire to strangle debate with the likes of Telemachus, Mynydd etc posting outrageous and ludicrous comments which demand rebuttal from sensible contributors. Unfortunately, the thread simply becomes a torrent of pointless exchanges and the debate is lost and it is ‘job done’ by the left and its cyber cronies. Keep up the good work sir!

      • HJ777

        You are correct.

        However, I’m not sure that this is such a new phenomenon. Did not Aneurin Bevan say of the Tories “So far as I am concerned,they are lower than vermin”?

  • George_Arseborne

    At least someone is addressing an issue that is endermic in the employment field. Isabel the more I read your article, the more I find your profession shameful. What is the present government doing to sort out such uncertaintity in people`s life?
    They are not addressing it and such Zero hour contracts suits their rich ilk by paying low and getting richer.
    If you are idle my dear I will advice you to make good use of your time volunteering…

    • Seadog

      Sorry. I am a retired solicitor now working as a domiciliary care worker (which I love). I am on a zero hours contract and it works for me and for my excellent employers. They are paid by the Social Security for the work they do. If, as happened to me this week, 3 of my clients suddenly found themselves in hospital, my employers lose 63 “appointments”this week. They cannot pay me for work I do not do for which they are not paid. When they have work I get it, when they don’t, i don’t get paid. paying workers for work that isn’t there is what eventually brought the USSR to its knees. The socialists, who nowadays have never done a days work in their lives do not know this. Perhaps if Milliband came and wiped 3 x 7 arses a week he would have a better idea of what is life.

      • Sally Wilton

        Well said on all counts. You have explained very well why zero hour contracts are so essential for care work and how home care in particular would collapse if it was made illegal. I would like to say that you are a great example for people considering doing care work, for which there is a terrible shortage of staff , and has to be covered by migrants in many cases.

  • david trant

    Hmmmm quoting Dan Bodges, how low can you get.

    The first people who should be placed on zero hours contracts are journalists, they’d only be paid when they are needed, now that would be a real zero hours contract.

    • HookesLaw

      Why ‘should’ anyone be placed on any contract?
      What is important are the ‘needs’ of both employer and employee.

    • wycombewanderer

      Most are freelance so have no contract in any case!

  • Hello

    “Labour would give legal rights to employees to demand a fixed-hours contract when they have worked for the same employer for over six months (although they will not have a right to get the contract they ask for)”

    I don’t understand this. Don’t employees already have a legal right to do this? Don’t they have a legal right to demand a pay rise of 1000% every year, or indeed whatever they like, they’re just unlikely to get it?

    Anyway, these contracts have been popular during the recession precisely because they’re flexible. If rights start coming into play after a year, then businesses will just fire and hire.

    • allymax bruce

      At 6 months, the employee can beg for a contract, but only mandated after a year!
      This is Labour!

    • Barakzai

      Agree. It’s a poor contrivance probably with an eye on sucking up to paymasters Len&Co; I listened to Umunna waffle unconvincingly to avoid answering Sarah Montague’s questions this morning on ‘Today’.

  • asalord

    Miliband is a joke. The reputation of the Labour party in Scotland is going the same way as the tory party. Both are more interested in feeding the greed of the city of London than in the welfare of the people of Scotland.

    • RavenRandom

      Blimey a piercing analysis. You must be right, because it makes sense for Labour not to care about Scotland. After all I’m sure they want a permanent Conservative, right of centre govt in England/Wales/NI when all those Labour Scottish seats go.

  • wobble

    Zero hour contracts should be compulsory on all MP’s in order for them to get a better understanding of them .Whats good for business , should be good for the country .

    No show in Parliament ,no pay . 3 no shows , verbal , written, final written warning, termination of contract .
    12 hour notice of working hours.
    No expenses .No subsidies .
    Performance managing , failure to meet expected targets , verbal , written, final written warning, termination of contract .
    No consideration for time taken to get to work.
    3 weeks holiday per annum , if they behave .
    Double shifts expected if there is a lot of legislation to get through .
    Weekends and bank holidays to count as normal working days .
    No sick pay for the first 3 days ,interview on return with documentation, More than one sickness event in a year contract is terminated as deemed unfit for work .

    Lessons must be learnt !

    • HookesLaw

      MPs can be voted out, so what is more zero than that.