AN EMPLOYMENT lawyer based in Wyre Forest is urging the Government to stand its ground amid mounting criticism of “zero-hours contracts”.

Sally Morris said they provided much-needed flexibility for businesses and their staff in what, she said, remained a “volatile market and a fragile economic recovery”.

Ms Morris, partner and head of employment at law firm Mfg Solicitors, defended zero hours contracts as business secretary Vince Cable considers a proposal to let workers request permanent contracts from their employers.

She believes employers would have nothing to fear from the changes in their present form but warned going further and forcing bosses to grant those requests could wreck any recovery.

Zero hours contracts allow employers to take on staff with no guarantee of work.

But Ms Morris said they had their place, adding: “Employers in certain industries need staff to be available when they have the work. If they have someone on the books with the skills and experience to do the job as and when it comes up, that means the worker can be paid and the employer is able to win more business by keeping overheads low.

“Of course most people would rather know exactly when they are going to be in work and that is why Vince Cable is looking at giving them the right to request a permanent contract. Critics of zero hours would say he should go further and give them the right to be granted permanent contracts. That would be a mistake.

“As it stands employers wouldn’t be obliged to provide a permanent contract, just to consider the request. Business owners here in Wyre Forest and the West Midlands should not feel pressured or ashamed about the use of a perfectly reasonable arrangement for employing workers on an ad hoc basis.”

“The economy is growing again but it is a fragile recovery. Forcing employers to pay for staff they don’t need will mean cost cutting and redundancies or would stop them from trying to take on business in the first place, meaning queues at job centres do not get smaller.

“In a world of 24-hour shopping, online transactions and exports all over the world to buyers in completely different time zones, the nine to five, Monday to Friday working environment is becoming a thing of the past.

“Demand can be unpredictable. Employers need a degree of flexibility as to who they employ and when. For most workers, if it is a case of having a zero hours contract or no employment at all, the choice is obvious.”

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