An alternative to zero hour contracts?

Mar 23, 2017

This week the Guardian reported that nearly 1 million UK workers are on zero hours contracts, a rise of 13% since 2015.

ShopWorks workforce management customers in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors do use zero hour contracts, and our staff scheduling software supports the practice. We would argue that our customers are all responsible employees and that when offered by considerate companies, zero hours contracts offer flexibility to both workers and employees.

Our customers often talk about needing to ensure employees get enough hours to keep them incentivized or else they wont be available when the business needs them, so I don’t believe many zero hour staff go without work. However, many of our work force management (WFM) customers have moved to contracted minimums and of course, their ShopWorks staff scheduling system helps them keep track to ensure they allocate all of the required contracted hours. Even for good employers zero hours contracts are becoming politically difficult and people are looking for alternatives.

In recent months though we have seen a rise in a new form of contract, which gives employers flexibility and employees more security. These “range” contracts work with a minimum commitment and an upper limit on the same terms. So for instance a range contract for 20- 30 hours would ensure that an employee gets a minimum of 20 hours contracted time at the agreed rate but the company can also call on that person for up to 30 hours at the same rate.

We first saw these in Ireland in one of the countries largest super market chains that we supply, but we are now seeing it more often in the UK. ShopWorks has modified its work force management software and also its biometric time and attendance (T&A) tools to allow operators to offer these contracts whilst giving managers the tools to ensure they meet their commitments to staff and pay the correct amount each month.

I think this is a positive development; businesses in the leisure, retail and hospitality sectors need flexibility to meet customer demand but need to manage staff budgets. Employees need some certainty and to be treated fairly. We expect to see more of these range contracts as political pressure on zero hours contracts continues and we are delighted that ShopWorks can support its work force management (WFM) customers with a solution.

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