Government plans to tackle zero-hours contract abuse ‘do not go far enough’, warns union

Ban on exclusivity clauses will do little to address exploitation of social care workers, says Unison

Signing contract
Picture credit: Rex/Jim Pickerell

Government proposals to outlaw ‘exclusivity clauses’ that prevent people on zero-hours contracts from working for more than one employer will do little to help low-paid social care employees, Community Care has heard.

The ban, announced today by business secretary Vince Cable, is designed to help the 125,000 zero-hours contract workers estimated to be tied to an exclusivity clause, as part of a bid to clamp down on abuses in the workplace by less scrupulous employers. It will allow workers to look for additional work to boost their income.

“Zero-hours contracts have a place in today’s labour market,” said Cable. “But it has become clear that some unscrupulous employers abuse the flexibility that these contracts offer to the detriment of their workers.

“Following overwhelming evidence we are now banning the use of exclusivity in zero-hours contracts and committing to increase the availability of information for employees on these contracts. We will also work with unions and business to develop a best practice code of conduct aimed at employers who wish to use zero-hours contracts as part of their workforce.”

But Helga Pile, head of social care at Unison, said that banning exclusivity clauses isn’t “getting to the point” of problems faced by many staff.

She said: “The real problem is where the contract is silent, but the employer expects them to be available around the clock to work as and when they’re called upon. If they turn work down, often they don’t get offered many hours – the zero-hours contract is used as an instrument of control. In theory they could work for someone else; but if, in practice, they’ll be penalised for not being available around the clock, it makes it very difficult.”

Pile added that councils contracting out social care must tackle the issue “at source” by offering providers guaranteed hours, which would then be passed onto staff.

Bridget Warr, chief executive of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, told Community Care that zero-hours contracts have a part to play in the homecare sector.

Warr said: “I’m not aware of exclusivity arrangements in home care – so this change is to be welcomed from the perspective of employee and will have very little negative impact.”

But she too called for local authority commissioners to do more for social care employees by ensuring they they are paid a living wage, which she said was the “major barrier” faced by people working in the sector.

The ban on exclusivity clauses forms part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which is being introduced to Parliament today.

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One Response to Government plans to tackle zero-hours contract abuse ‘do not go far enough’, warns union

  1. karen July 6, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    how about a topic minimum wage. carers do not get paid for travel time between calls so they may be earning less than minimum wage and also most care agencies do not pay mileage so you have to claim petrol back from tax office which does not cover the cost of the petrol so your wages are even less.. the government should address iissues like this. being a carer is hard work .