...serving up secure working hours
115,000 McDonald’s workers in the UK who are on zero-hour contracts will be given the chance to switch to fixed contracts, guaranteeing a set number of working hours per week.
Struggling to survive on insecure work
Zero-hour contracts have been causing controversy for years due to the lack of employment protection they offer, such as unstable working hours, making it easy for businesses to exploit workforces.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that around 910,000 workers in the UK were employed on zero-hours contracts in 2016.
McDonald’s is one of the biggest businesses in the UK that uses zero-hour contracts, joining the likes of Sports Direct, which previously offered its shop workers the same. After revelations about its questionable pay practices and mistreatment of staff, Sports Direct promised to move away from zero-hour contracts and guarantee at least 12 working hours a week for some of its staff.
The fast-food chain now plans to offer staff fixed hours after they complained about struggling to get loans, mortgages, and mobile phone contracts as they weren’t guaranteed stable employment on a weekly basis.
Giving workers a choice
After trialling the use of fixed hours contracts in 23 of its restaurants across the UK, McDonald’s said staff and customer satisfaction levels increased. It also found that 80% of its workers chose to stay on flexible contracts. McDonald’s will now extend this offer to 50 more restaurants before it’s introduced nationwide.
The American eatery has previously defended its use of zero-hour contracts, but has faced criticism from protestors, including campaigners from Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero who recently donned clown costumes and staged a demonstration outside of a McDonald’s in Glasgow.
The chief executive of McDonald’s UK, Paul Pomroy, denied that the business is introducing this change due to political pressure:
“We are reflecting people’s lives. In a growing business we need people to come and work for us, it’s a mutually beneficial approach.”
Treating staff like disposable labour
Suggesting that zero-hour contracts let businesses treat staff like “disposable labour”, the TUC has urged the Government to ban them from being used.
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said:
“If you’re on a zero-hours contract you have no guarantee of work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong and you can be let go in a heartbeat. Turn down a shift because your kid’s sick and you can be left with little or no work.”
The TUC also found that the increasing use of zero-hour contracts is draining public finances, costing the exchequer almost £2billion a year.
So how exactly do these contracts affect the UK’s economy?
Compared to employees, people on zero-hour contracts earn a substantial amount less and as a result rely more on support from the Government. They also pay less tax and national insurance.
If the issue of insecure employment isn’t tackled soon, the TUC has estimated that by 2022 around 3.5million people in the UK could find themselves trapped in unstable employment, including zero-hour contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.
“It’s positive news that some companies are now beginning to offer workers a choice as to the type of contract they are on rather than forcing them onto a zero-hours contract.”
“Whilst a zero-hours arrangement may work for some, it is important that employers offer a degree of flexibility and consider alternatives for those who request it.”
“Offering more flexibility and/or guaranteeing minimum working hours can help people feel more in control of their working arrangements, and their finances, which in turn benefits employers by improving staff morale and retention.”
“It’s encouraging that a large organisation such as McDonald’s has recognised that to get the most out of its workforce it needs to adopt a more flexible approach to the working arrangements that it offers.”
Written by Taylor Stirland.
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