Zero hour work contracts can be positive: DEL

Learning Minister Stephen Farry
Learning Minister Stephen Farry

The Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) has written to Derry City Council asking for its views on how the Department can act to ensure ‘zero-hour contracts occupy a positive space in the Northern Ireland labour market.’

In February the Council resolved to “oppose the increasing inappropriate use of zero hour contracts, which are used to deny working people the right to secure employment, statutory safeguards and basic entitlements while perpetuating in-work poverty.”

It called for “immediate regulation to end this abuse of short-term and temporary contracts” and called for the “implementation of a living wage” to help ensure a ‘Legacy’ from UK City of Culture.

DEL, has now written to the Council to say it thinks zero-hour contracts are beneficial. It asked the Council to respond to an ongoing consultation, which will “seek evidence on the use of zero hour contracts and invites views on a range of potential actions that the Department could take to ensure that zero hour contracts occupy a positive space in the NI labour market.”

“The 14 week consultation will be taken forward in parallel with NI specific research to gain a more accurate understanding of the numbers of zero hours contracts and where their use is most prevalent,” the letter states.

In June, Jobs Minister Dr Stephen Farry said the contracts offer businesses ‘flexibility.’

He said: “Zero-hours contracts have been used responsibly, in many cases, for years. They can support business flexibility, making it easier to hire new staff and provide pathways to employment for young people and other jobseekers. These contracts and other flexible arrangements can also give individuals more choice in managing work and other non-work commitments. However, for others, zero-hours contracts, in particular when restrictions are applied, are associated with problems such as the ability to negotiate credit and eligibility for benefits payments, because of the uncertainty about working patterns and income.”