Zero hour contracts have been big news recently. Companies such as McDonalds, Burger King, Dominos Pizza and Sports Direct have been exposed as employing thousands of staff on zero hour contracts that breed a culture of insecurity, uncertain pay and fear.
It has also become clear that these contracts are common across the public, voluntary and charitable sector as well. Physiotherapists are also familiar with zero hour contracts but often know them as 'bank' contracts.
At one time the hospital staff bank existed to provide short term staffing to cover short absences or peaks in demand. Bank workers were mostly employed elsewhere and used bank work in addition to their normal hours of work to earn some extra money.
Increasingly now we are seeing bank contracts as the standard way of starting employment within physiotherapy. Issues around being on a bank or zero hours contract can include:
- being denied training, career development and appraisal
- financial planning difficult due to variable wages and short notice changes to hours
- difficulties planning childcare and family life including holidays
- mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression
- working while unwell in order not to lose pay
- worries about turning down work or taking time off for medical appointments in case work is not offered again.
As well as these issues it is relatively common to see members working full time for years on a zero hour contract. These 'casual' workers are clearly being used as employees but are denied the rights associated with employee status such as paid holidays, maternity pay and sick pay.
Earlier in 2013 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills carried out an information gathering exercise on zero hour contracts.
The CSP submitted a robust response based on member’s experiences of working in an increasingly casualised workforce. This can be seen below.
This issue is likely to remain relevant for quite some time so please continue to share your experiences with the CSP, positive or negative, at the dedicated email address below.