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I have a friend who runs a “man with van” service which offers an on-call service. Times are hard and to build a bit of stability into his portfolio, he took a contract to do deliveries for a local supermarket store, one of the big ones. It’s a Zero Hours affair and he needs the work to maintain his mortgage payments.
So, he must block put one evening a week to work for the supermarket. The day varies each week which makes his other enterprise difficult to run, but he must put up and shut up.
He arrives on shift at 5 pm to find out that he has one delivery at 11 pm and nothing else. His coworkers have similar rosters. No one can leave the store, but also, he will only earn whilst he delivers for the one hour he is working from the 7.5 he is contracted to deliver. As a result of his efforts, his wages are well below the minimum wage.
Another week, he is phoned 10 minutes before the shift starts and told not to come in. His earnings are zero. What does he do economically with his time for that evening?
He does this for a few weeks and then speaks with the manager, suggesting all kinds of ways of making things better for all concerned and is told “That’s not the way we do things here”. The manager knows that he has a ready supply of drivers in the market, so he can more or less treat people as he likes. He has the support of the HR function in doing this.
His co-workers all have similar problems, but see no profit in rocking the boat, so all suffer in silence, with little or no commitment to the company.
Talking with another young person friend of mine, I find this is not confined to one supermarket. He works an upmarket supermarket chain and says that “the manager treats them like cr..p”. He describes similar behaviour that we would have recognised as part of the Victorian Workhouse culture.
Do HR consider the effects of Zero Hours Contracts on people? Do they think about how it impacts their brand?