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Right to request fixed hours could be given to workers on zero-hours contracts

A government-commissioned inquiry is set to call for employees on zero-hours contracts to be given the right to request a move onto fixed hours.

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According to a BBC report, Matthew Taylor, the head of the Royal Society of Arts who is leading the inquiry into controversial working practices, will recommend that the “right to request” fixed hours will be similar to the present right to request flexible hours. As such, employers would have to respond “seriously” to the request and give reasons for their decision.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) backs the idea. In its submission to the Taylor review, the CBI also said that all employees should have their terms and conditions set out in a written statement.

According to BBC sources, Taylor has been struck by the example of McDonald’s, which offered all its staff on zero-hours contracts the chance to move onto fixed hours.

McDonald’s chief executive, Paul Pomroy, said around 20% of employees on zero-hours had asked for a move but that 80% were comfortable with no guaranteed hours.

He said that for many employees such contracts offered the flexibility they wanted and that McDonald’s still offered full rights to people who worked on them.

“Our staff really appreciate the flexibility they get from zero-hour contracts,” Pomroy said. “Two years ago our staff started to tell us they needed some form of contracted hours because they wanted to get mobile phone contracts, car loans and – as they got older – mortgages to buy houses. So we had to change and listen to our people.

“And we have tested fully flexed contracts where you can either stay on zero hours or move to some form of permanent hours.”

The Conservative party, which commissioned the Taylor review, said it would look at new rights for people working in the “gig-economy” who are often classed as self-employed even though they may be regularly working for one company.

The Labour party has proposed banning zero-hours contracts if it wins the general election and the Liberal Democrats have said they back a “right to request” change to employment regulations.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This could mean close to zero action on zero-hours contracts. A ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers.

“To make a real change, we should turn this policy on its head. Everyone should be entitled to guaranteed hours, with a genuine choice for workers to opt-out, free from pressure from their boss. And anyone asked to work outside their contracted hours should be paid extra on top of their usual wage.

“All parties should be upfront about what is on offer to working people trapped in insecure work this election – and stop hiding behind a review that will report after voting is over.”

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