Staying flexible in light of the Sports Direct zero-hours controversy

How can businesses stay flexible without zero-hours contracts?

The report into business practices at Sports Direct exploded out of the business section and onto the front pages of many news websites this morning. One of the primary concerns of the report is to look into the use of zero-hours contracts by the sports retailer. In the likely event that the report looks negatively upon the practice of zero-hours employment, it could set a precedent that sees zero-hours contracts fall out of favour, or even become banned in the UK. While many business owners currently rely on zero-hour contracts for a flexible workforce, it could be time to look for a new way to support your business during busy periods.

Why do people use zero-hours contracts?

The reason so many businesses choose to employ their staff on zero-hours contracts is because it allows them the flexibility to meet rises and falls in demand while still remaining cost effective. While some businesses might know they have certain busy periods every year (like the retail sector at Christmas) other businesses may have a work load that fluctuates on a weekly and monthly basis.

In instances such as these when workloads can quickly change, it isn’t practical to have a large workforce that can handle a busy Saturday if they’ll have nothing to do the other 6 days of the week. That’s why zero-hours contracts are effective.

The problem with zero-hours

From a purely business point of view it makes sense, however it is easy to see why it’s a problem for staff. Having no guarantee of weekly hours and weekly income makes it impossible to budget for things like cars, rent, and holidays. It’s no surprise then that zero-hours contracts lead to low staff satisfaction, ultimately resulting in the situation Sports Direct now finds itself in.

But how can businesses have a cost effective flexible infrastructure without using zero-hours contracts?

Alternative options for a flexible infrastructure

One of the most effective ways to manage a changing workload is to use outsourcing to accommodate surges in business. By outsourcing non-essential and unskilled tasks to dedicated third party service providers, businesses can employ the bare minimum of staff, all of whom have relevant training. While in house staff perform business critical tasks, things like accounting, customer service, and answering the phone can be dealt with by specialists.

By doing this, businesses know that they have the infrastructure ready to handle a large work load, but they only need to pay for it when it is being used. The staff that they do choose to employ can be offered full time well paid contracts, but the overall salary of the workforce will remain low.

At alldayPA we are call answering specialists and we can support your business so you don’t have to rely on zero-hours contracts. Find out more by calling us on 0345 056 8888.


Image Courtesy of Betty Longbottom – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license

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