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17 January 2019
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Zero-hour contracts in FM

9 August 2013

Zero-hours contracts have risen to public prominence over the last couple of weeks. 

They are widely used in facilities management, especially in the security industry. I have used zero-hour contracts and as an employer. They are useful, however we should not lose sight of the employee, their wellbeing and the potential uncertainty they can create. Here are five top tips on using zero-hour contracts:

1. They should only compliment and support full time contracts
You will always need a core compliment of staff to provide a service. This core compliment should be staffed by contracted hours staff. It saves on back office administration and provides a stable workforce for your customers. A common use of use zero-hour contracts is for holiday, sick cover and surges in demand. You can calculate how many staff you will need for holiday cover. Managed well you can smooth the demand throughout the year. This allows zero-hours contract staff to have a steady stream of work. I have worked based on less than 10 per cent of your workforce are on zero-hour contracts.

2. You need to give ample notice of when staff will be needed
Giving one hours' notice does not help you or help the staff. It puts unnecessary pressure on both parties. You should give a forward plan of work to staff so you can plan your business and the staff can plan their lives. Zero-hours staff providing holiday cover does this. Sickness is harder but it always will be regardless of whether you have zero hours staff or not.

3. Give staff first refusal on new opportunities and new vacancies
Zero-hour staff are members of your workforce and they should be given first refusal on any contracted hours posts in the workforce. This incentivises staff to stay in the organisation and help you because turnover of staff in facilities management is usually quite high and opportunities will naturally arise.

4. Provide employee benefits
A common issue raised with zero-hour contracts in that there is no employee benefits. No sick, no holiday, no pension etc. Why not? You can pay all of these things to staff retrospectively based on the actual hours worked in the previous month. This provides some security for the staff when there may not be guaranteed income and doesn’t cost the business any more than employing contracted hour staff.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Above all it is important to maintain regular communication with staff. Be clear on what is happening and if there is likely to be work in the future or not. Be clear what flexibility, benefits and issues there are and be clear that they are every part of the workforce as staff who have guaranteed contracted hours.

Robert Cunliffe is a built environment professional who specialises in local government FM, highways and BPO procurement.