Zero Hour Contracts – Working hard or hardly working staff

Those that have had the opportunity to work within the events industry will be all too familiar with the ebb and flow of demand and work loads that come with such a dynamic environment. An industry in which no two days are the same carry the constant burden for employers of balancing supply with demand whilst ensuring standards are maintained throughout. As a result, an increasing need for flexibility is pushing the adoption of zero hour contracts for labour requirements within this sector.


The Office of National Statistics estimates a number of 250’000 event industry workers and 48% of employers within hotel, catering and leisure industries hosting at least one employee currently on this form of contract. The benefits of which are quite clear in the view of the employer, giving them flexibility and in some cases being a key factor in ensuring business survival however, it isn’t all so well for the employee.


Whilst for many employee’s this gives the perfect work-life balance providing the opportunity to work and being free to complete personal responsibilities, many face the issue of lack of job security. For those who depend on a minimum number of hours, sudden fluctuations can result in severe personal consequences and therefore influence their working behavior, seeing insecurity as a demotivating factor of hard work.


With no workload guarantee, many employee’s may participate in several contracts given wider opportunity for work, however, due to this organisations must have a larger collective of employees to cater with the flexibility. As a result, a feeling of competition is likely to arise between staff members. An environment of competitive-reward can often create a higher motivated workforce with the perception that increased quality and efficiency output of the staff member being rewarded with an advanced position for more hours as the opportunity arises. If this occurs, it can be beneficial to both the employee with increased psychological reward; as well as the employer with a higher productivity rate within the organisation.


However, the nature of this style of employment also generates a series of issues. Exploitation of workforce by using these contract is not uncommon and in many ways not illegal although immoral. For full time staff, the lack of consistency can have negative effects including fewer employees needing to carry higher work loads as well as creating an environment with increased pressure and less flexibility.


Maintaining a motivated workforce within an industry known for its high turnover (31%) has its issues however, adding this relatively new type of contract to the problem may cause even more. Staffing agency MD Tom Eatenton explains “How can you expect long-term thinking, reliability or commitment form those working for you if you give none back”. This quote provides a clear example of where the balance of commitment it required from both the employer and employee to ensure a productive workforce. Without accommodating the needs of the employee, businesses can expect to see a fall in motivation quality of staff.


Those that opt into this method of employment can easily become a victim of “exploitation”; with many earning less than the living wage financial instability is a big issue. Not only this but the employee also does not have the benefits of other employment forms. Sickness and holiday pay are but two examples of where the needs of the employee are not met therefore for the most disincentives’ the want to work hard. It does however benefit the employer as it enables the avoidance of paying such benefits as well as reducing administrative resources being used.


When an employees needs are ignored there is a increased level of disloyalty towards the organisation as the worker will often not hesitate float between jobs at a higher rate. Even the smallest variations between roles or benefits will be a driving force for staff movement therefore resulting in a much higher requirement of new employment as well as training costs related to this. The cost of hiring new employees (especially with a high turnover rate) can be the difference between success and failure due to increasing strain on financial resources as well as issues with maintaining consistent quality of service.


It is essential for the employer to develop a respectful relationship with this type of employment. Ensuring high quality service is essential for continued growth and development of the sector as well as driving expanse of a collective of higher skilled and productive workforces within the industry. Maintaining a motivated workforce that stimulates innovation, productivity and quality is at the heart of this process.



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