Casual work: Employees freed or Employers greed?

Zero-hour contracts, the gig economy, and agency work. You may have heard these phrases in the media recently, but what do they mean? Just Recruitment untangles the net.

In July, a government review of good working practice condemned the use of casual working; such as zero-hour contracts or ‘gig’ work.

The ONS recently revealed that the number of people on zero hours contracts in the UK has fallen 2.2% since last year. This has been hailed a step in the right direction for the labour market.  

For some people, casual work yields a wide host of benefits. Could casual work be for you? Read our guide below to find out!

Pros and cons of the different types of casual work

What is the gig economy?

Defined as ‘a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work’, the so-called ‘gig economy’ has recently gained plenty of traction in the UK news.

The gig economy can provide a working environment which offers flexibility for employees who want casual work.

Instead of a regular salary or hourly wage, workers are paid for each ‘gig’ they carry out. These gigs range from simply delivering food, to running errands such as ironing, or collecting weekly shopping.

It is estimated that around five million people in the UK are employed in this way, with 40% of these workers using the work for supplemental income.

Although these jobs provide flexibility, the worker is self-employed in the eyes of the law. Therefore, they are not entitled to employment rights such as holiday entitlement or sick pay.  

What is a zero hours contract?

A worker with a zero-hour contract is classed as an employee of a company. This means they are entitled to employment rights.

However, as the name suggests, the employee is promised no hours. Although the employee is protected by rights, the uncertainty of knowing when you will next be able to work can be debilitating and cause people to abandon their social lives.

A study carried out by UCL found that people with zero hour contracts were one and a half times more likely to report having a mental health problem compared to those with a secure employment contract.

Employees are also allowed to work for other companies, which offers the freedom to pursue other career paths simultaneously. They are also allowed to turn down work when offered.

For those who work for supplementary income and appreciate the benefits employment rights yield, a zero-hour contract is flexible and offers a certain amount of freedom.

What is agency work?

Those seeking temporary work through a recruitment agency are classified as agency workers. This is the preferable way to undertake casual work, as workers are entitled to full employment rights – including equal pay to permanent employees after working on an assignment for 12 weeks.

However, temporary work can be a double-edged sword. Some recruitment agencies will try to avoid the ethical route of employment of casual workers, by using umbrella pay schemes or Swedish Derogation. These schemes can erode employee rights and cause workers to lose earnings.  

Employer branding

It is also important for companies to know the implications of different contracts and agency practices on employees. If workers are treated unethically, or deceived, this will reflect negatively on your brand.

Marks and Spencer found out the hard way, when public protests were launched. This was due to an agency they employed paying their temporary staff less than permanent employees, exploiting the Swedish Derogation loop hole.

At Just Recruitment we treat our temporary employees the same as our permanent staff. They are paid above the National Minimum Wage, offered holiday pay and we have implemented a voluntary benefits scheme, which we are the first agency in the region to offer.

We hope that all other employers and recruitment agencies will follow suit, and begin offering stability, flexibility and fair employment practices to their employees.

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you liked this article you may like to read – Commoditisation and how to resist it

You may also like to read – Mental health in the work place for employers and employees

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