Nearly 800 council staff on zero-hour contracts, figures reveal

PUBLISHED: 14:48 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:13 15 August 2013

cllr Maureen Cook

cllr Maureen Cook

Archant

NEARLY 800 staff are employed on controversial zero-hours contracts at councils serving Welwyn Hatfield, it has emerged.

"(Fixed-hour contracts) would be much fairer and enable people to plan their income and outgoings"

Cllr Maureen Cook

This week officials at County Hall and Welwyn Hatfield Council revealed a combined 777 workers are employed on the terms, which have prompted a Government review.

A worried critic has warned staff face “financial insecurity” – but bosses have defended the working conditions.

By law, employees on zero-hour contracts have no guarantee of work each week, and are only called on when employers rule they are needed.

The working conditions were last week blasted by business secretary Vince Cable.

"It often suits their personal circumstances if these staff members have other gainful employment during the day, are studying at college/university, have childcare commitments or just prefer the flexibility of not having fixed working hours."

Statement from Welwyn Hatfield Council

Herts County Council told the WHT it employed 701 staff on zero hour contracts, while there were 76 at Welwyn Hatfield Council.

A spokesman from the Herts branch of trade union Unison said: “That’s 701 too many, we’re very much against zero-hour contracts.”

The East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs the QE2 and Lister hospitals, said none of its staff are on the contracts.

After seeing the figures, Hatfield county councillor Maureen Cook, Labour, said the terms could cause “financial insecurity”, and added: “I can understand them being used where demand for work fluctuates for example in school holidays, but I don’t see why people like registrars for weddings, peripatetic music teachers and clerks to school governing bodies can’t have fixed-hour contracts.

“These would be much fairer and enable people to plan their income and outgoings.”

A County Hall spokesman said: “Some of these people also hold permanent part time contracts with the council.

“The use of zero hour contracts is linked to roles where demand for their work fluctuates, such as registrars for weddings at licensed venues across the county, peripatetic music teachers and clerks to school governing bodies.

“The alternative permanent contract arrangements that we have for the majority of our staff would not be appropriate for these roles.”

The authority employs more than 33,000 people, including teachers.

A statement from Welwyn Hatfield Council said casual staff at Campus West and the museum service are often employed on an ‘as and when’ basis.

It added: “We have done this for some time. Staff working in other areas of the business cover specific activities, such as the annual canvass for the register of electors, in busier times and when those teams need the extra resource.

“All staff are fully aware of this when they are appointed to these roles.

“It often suits their personal circumstances if these staff members have other gainful employment during the day, are studying at college/university, have childcare commitments or just prefer the flexibility of not having fixed working hours.”


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