Labour has proposed banning zero-hour contracts for employees working regular hours for longer than 12 weeks.
This pledge revises Labour’s previously proposed policy to entitle those working regular hours for 12 consecutive months to automatically move to a regular contract.
Under this new policy, 90% of an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK on zero-hour contracts would have the right to move to a regular contract if they wanted.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “If you are working regularly, you have a legal right to a regular contract”.
He added: “It [the practice of zero-hours contracts] is leaving people without a reliable income, not knowing from one day to the next how much work will be coming in, unable to plan from one week to the next.”
Critics of Labour’s proposed policy say, however, that banning zero-hour contracts will give UK businesses less flexibility.
“The UK’s flexible jobs market has given us an employment rate that is the envy of other countries, so proposals to limit flexible contracts to 12 weeks are wide of the mark,” CBI director-general John Cridland told the Guardian newspaper.
“Of course action should be taken to tackle abuses, but demonising flexible contracts is playing with the jobs that many firms and many workers value and need.
“These proposals run the risk of a return to day-to-day hiring in parts of the economy, with lower stability for workers and fewer opportunities for people to break out of low pay.”
The UK has seen a 20% increase in zero-hour contracts in the last year.
Labour has also pledged that its zero-hours bill would ensure that workers on zero-hours contracts are not obliged to be available over and above their contracted hours, are allowed to work for other employers, and are entitled to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.
The only exemption from Labour’s zero-hour contracts bill, the party says, would be for employees – such as nurses – who specifically requested a zero-hours contract because they wanted to work at another hospital for example as well as their usual job.