Zero-hours Contracts

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 2017.

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Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North 12:00 am, 27th June 2017

What the Government’s policy is on zero-hours contracts.

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House, along with the considerable expertise he brings on labour market issues from his former employment.

Zero-hours contracts allow people to access the labour market who cannot or do not want to commit to standard, regular work. The Government recognise the concerns about employers who may be breaching the rules or otherwise exploiting their position. We want to make sure that everyone is paid properly and receives the employment rights to which they are entitled.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North

I thank the Minister for her response and for her kind words. Given the ease with which, just yesterday, £1 billion was found to protect only one job in Westminster, will the Minister please say what actions the Government are taking to encourage business to offer genuine financial and personal security to the nearly 1 million workers on zero-hours contracts?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The Government believe that people are entitled to be treated fairly at work, regardless of what type of contract they have with the company for which they work. The Prime Minister commissioned Matthew Taylor to undertake a review of the rights of employees. He will report on the ways in which employment regulations need to keep pace with changes in the labour market very shortly.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

I welcome the Minister’s statement that the Government are determined to ensure that employees get their employment rights. Why, then, did the Government introduce the huge fees for access to employment tribunals? Will they now abolish those fees?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Employment tribunals are a matter for the Ministry of Justice, but I am in discussions with it over the review of employment tribunals that it has undertaken and we keep a watching brief on the matters the hon. Lady has raised.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour)

What does the Minister have to say to the young dustman who said to me, “Jack, I’ve just got married. We’re about to have a baby. We’re paying a fortune in rent. We’d love to buy our own home, but no chance, because I’m on zero-hours contracts”? Is not the truth that he and millions of workers like him have seen through the pretence that the Conservative party is somehow the party of the working class, and the false claims and the phoney promises, and have simply had enough of falling pay, squeezed living standards and insecurity in the world of work?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I think we should have perspective on these matters, because less than 3% of the UK workforce are actually on zero-hours contracts, and according to the most recent research, 70% of those people are content with the number of hours they are working. I do accept the hon. Gentleman’s point about his constituent, however, and that is precisely the scenario that Matthew Taylor has reviewed and will report on very soon.