BM 66 – ‘Zero-hour’ contracts and casualisation of work

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‘Zero-hour’ contracts can be defined as contracts of employment that contain provisions creating an “on call” arrangement between employer and employee. They confer no obligations on the employer to provide work for the employee.

The employee agrees to be available for work as and when he is required, so that the number of hours or time of work is not specified. The employee is expected to be constantly “on call” and receives compensation only for the hours worked.

ESU recently resolved at BM 65 to support the concept of the right to a ’living wage’ and to condemn the ’internship culture’ that is now widespread for young people across Europe.

’Zero hour’ contracts are the manifestation of the ongoing casualisation of employment arrangements between employer and employee, and are used to unfairly exploit precarious young workers.

They often lead to high levels of uncertainty and desperation amongst student workers, which can be a hindrance on their academic work.

Zero-hour contracts and the casualisation of labour actively erode rights in the work place. This is not just harmful for those young people currently employed, but for all graduates entering the labour market in years to come.

ESU should work with the trade union movement in condemning the existence of ‘zero-hour’ contracts and the increasing casualisation of work for young people across Europe, and call for their abolition.


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