Labour leader Ed Miliband has declared war on zero-hours contracts, but this could make life tough for responsible businesses, retailers have warned.

Party Line

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“It has left too many people not knowing how they will make ends meet from one week to the next, and unable to plan for the future”

Labour leader Ed Miliband

ids“We need to get the right balance between what zero-hours contracts deliver and any abuses there might be”

Conservative MP and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

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“I do not believe in banning zero-hours contracts. But I do believe there is a very strong case for expecting large employers to sign up to a tough code of conduct”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage

Miliband has set out his party’s policy that workers with irregular shifts and pay should be given more employment rights, including a fixed-hours contract if they work regularly for the same employer for a year.

Zero-hours contracts have become a hot topic among politicians during the past 12 months, with concerns that some larger employers may be abusing them at the expense of their workforce.

However, for independent retailers they can often be a way of offering flexible hours that suit both the business and its employees.

Cambridgeshire-based retail group James Graven uses zero-hours contracts to offer workers flexible options.

Caroline Bosworth, community liaison and HR manager at James Graven, said: “Yes, we do have staff who remain on zero-hours contracts after a year, but that is very much their wish.

“Zero hours can suit parents with young children or people who have caring responsibilities. It’s very much a two-way street. We ask, ‘Do you want to work these hours?’, and they say, ‘Yes or no’.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said local shops provided a flexible source of local employment for more than 375,000 people.

“Zero-hours contracts are not very common in our sector but they can be a valuable tool for retailers when they need extra cover over busy periods, and are also beneficial for employees with commitments such as childcare or study who need that extra flexibility.”

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