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Women take on zero hours contracts

22nd August 2014


Over twenty women gathered at WRDA on Wednesday 20th August to put forward ideas on how to improve zero hour contracts for NI workers. These contracts have attracted much criticism in recent months, leading the Department of Education and Learning (DEL) to launch a consultation on them.

Many of the women who came to WRDA’s focus group also had negative perceptions of the contracts, which do not provide workers with set hours and therefore a stable wage. Others, however, did acknowledge the contracts could be beneficial to some workers because they can in some ways be more flexible.

Regardless of their viewpoint, all the women came together to discuss ways that the contracts could be made safer and more secure. Popular suggestions included:
• Placing the onus on employers to prove they need to have some staff on zero hour contracts, rather than just allowing them to use the contracts at will.
• Making it mandatory for all staff on zero hours to be provided with information on their rights and position as employees. Conditions of employment should also be based on the standards of Trade Unions.
• No longer allowing employees to add an exclusivity clause to zero hour contracts (which prevents staff from working elsewhere). Or ensuring the employee receives a higher wage or some other benefit if they do have an exclusivity clause placed in their contract.
• Granting zero hour workers guaranteed hours if they have worked a regular pattern for a set period of time, e.g. a year.
• Introducing a compensatory arrangement that would guarantee a minimum payment for workers on zero hour contracts who had the expectation of work.

Many additional ideas were also voiced. All will now be shared with our partners in the Women’s Regional Consortium. WRDA held a total of three focus groups during August on behalf of the Consortium, which is seeking to respond to a number of important policy issues. The other two topics we covered were racial equality and women in politics. Feedback from the focus groups has been excellent so we will be looking to hold more very soon.

If you’d like to learn now to contribute your own ideas to the consultation on zero hour contracts, please click here.

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