Zero-hours contracts in the NHS

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Conference
2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
Date
18 December 2015
Decision
Carried

Conference notes with concern the report from the Office of National Statistics issued in September 2015 that indicates that the number of people working on zero-hours contracts climbed to 744,000 from 624,000 in 2014, a rise of 19% to 2.4% of the total UK workforce of 31 million. Conference is particularly alarmed that the Health and Social work sector has the third largest proportion of staff working on a zero-hours basis, indicating there is a growing number NHS employers using zero hours contracts. This at the same time the government is claiming they’re addressing the worst misuses of zero-hours contracts through the introduction of toothless legislation that isn’t backed by any enforcement measures.

Conference recognises that it’s our low paid members working in operational services in both the NHS and in the private sector providing NHS services that are most vulnerable to the worst abuses of zero-hours contracts. All too often we are hearing reports that organisations are using staff on zero-hours contracts to replace substantive posts in the NHS while our operational services members working on this basis are being forced to work with no guaranteed hours and without clearly defined job specifications. These reports also suggest members on zero-hours contracts are being treated drastically different to permanent members of staff, with no sick or holiday pay and are being let go with little or no notice. As a result this group of members are often left feeling unvalued and excluded from the NHS team, this then transmits to patients and the care they receive.

Conference acknowledges and condemns the abuse of zero-hours contracts in social care where more than 40% of care workers are employed on a zero-hours basis with many illegally receiving less than the minimum wage. As the government continues with its policy of integrating health and social care it is important that we ensure these employment practices do not begin to undermine Agenda for Change and become the norm in the NHS.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:

1)Continue to provide advice, guidance and support to branches that are campaigning and negotiating with employers on matters relating to zero-hours contracts and to ensure that all members on these contracts receive the same employment rights as those covered by Agenda for Change.

2. Work with the operational services occupational group to monitor the use of zero-hours contracts when employing support staff in the NHS, especially in areas where health and social care is being integrated.

3. Work with the operational services occupational group to assess the impact that an increased zero hours culture is having on operational services staff working in the NHS.

4. Work with Labour Link and the wider union to campaign for meaningful legislative protections for all health members who are working on zero-hours contracts.