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Are short-hour contracts the new zero-hour contracts?

A new investigation has found that short-hour contacts come with many of the same potential problems and abuses

Zero-hour contracts are rife in the UK; however, they have a terrible reputation due to unfair working hours, a lack of sick pay, and the potential for bosses to take advantage of employees. Many companies and businesses have therefore strayed away from the controversial contracts and are now trialling short-hour contracts; however, a new investigation has found that short-hour contacts come with many of the same potential problems and abuses.

Companies can still exploit the same loopholes that zero-hour contracts use. Many of these loopholes force employees to stop working for other firms, despite the government placing a ban on this practice in 2015.

One contract stated that new employees would receive a minimum of 336 hours a year and must always be available to work at short notice. This means it is virtually impossible for them to work for another company, as it is likely that they would frequently be cancelling shifts at the last minute to attend their primary job.

Shifts can also be extremely varied; for example, some employees have reported working two shifts a week that last for three and a half hours. This can vastly increase the cost of travelling to and from work, especially if the employee is working two short shifts for two different companies on the same day.

Employees are also told that they must be prepared to work at any location in the UK, which means that they may be expected to travel for hours or even days to get to work.

Another issue with short-hour contracts is the frequency of work. As employees are only contracted to work 336 hours a year, the company has said that there may be times when no work is allocated. This makes it very difficult for short-hour employees to find financial stability. It is likely that they will earn different amounts of money every week; in fact, in some weeks they may not earn any money at all.

The controversial contracts have already been met with outrage. Security staff from the University of London went on strike over the contracts in April, while many unions have openly condemned the contracts.

Short-hour contracts are being advertised as a flexible job that can come with unlimited hours; however, the reality is very different. So far, it seems that short-hour contracts are very similar to zero-hour contracts, which means that most of the issues – such as a lack of financial stability – remain.

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