Small business leaders condemn zero-hours contracts in Plymouth
LEADERS of small businesses in Plymouth have attacked large companies who employ workers on zero-hours contracts.
Plymouth University Students Union has confirmed it employs workers on the contracts. The Herald also understands at least two other major employers in the city use the contracts, which make no guarantee of the number of hours workers will be required to work each week.
On Monday it was revealed a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report suggested one million workers are on zero-hours contracts in the UK.
The Office for National Statistics had estimated only 250,000.
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The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said the use of the contracts is worse in bigger companies.
Sue Wilkinson, development manager Devon for the FSB, said: "We are appalled that people can be treated in this way and it's not something we hope that our members would ever consider."
A host of businesses with branches in Plymouth have been revealed as employing workers on the contracts, including McDonalds, JD Wetherspoon, Sports Direct, Subway and Boots.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is investigating the breadth and impact of zero-hours contracts.
Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: "These contracts provide flexibility for students.
"What is important is that people shouldn't be forced into doing it.
"Anyone who is in this situation and is concerned about it should come and see me."
Daniel Matthews, HR adviser at Plymouth University Students Union, said: "We employ Plymouth University students on casual contracts to help them through their studies with things like bar work and cleaning.
"Although the hours are not guaranteed, it is a two-way arrangement that suits both parties very well. It gives the students a safe place to work and helps them socialise with other students."
A city worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had a bad experience working for a company in Mutley.
She now works on a zero-hours contract for a different business, but says it is much better.
She said: "I worked at my previous job for eight months, and at first I didn't find it a problem, I was enjoying the 65- to 75-hour weeks.
"It was a really great chance to work my socks off to pay for my car but as it came to summer and they decided they didn't need as many staff, my hours dropped from working around 60 hours to just hitting 45 if I was lucky, and other staff were not being given any shifts. Having a zero-hour contract means they can take away shifts you've been working for months, which they did to me and it left me struggling to pay for my rent and car.
"I did like the flexibility until I felt like I couldn't ask for a day off or a holiday, and even when I did they would 'forget' and it would be even more of a hassle trying to get the time off. I would like a fixed-hour contract as at least then I can guarantee I'll be able to pay the rent this month."
Claire English, a dental student at Plymouth University, has two jobs on zero-hours contracts.
She said: "Occasionally it can be annoying because there are no guaranteed hours, but I can work it around university.
"I have more than one job and they are all zero-hours contracts, so I can fit them around each other.
"I think if I wasn't a student I would want regular hours, but I prefer the flexibility now."