Employers in the care sector currently have no alternative to zero-rated contracts.
We are not, as Ed Milliband seems to believe, unscrupulous or exploitative. The solution would be government funding or a fair price paid for care.
The pattern in the community is constantly changing. People sadly die or are admitted to hospital or respite. They may have to go into residential or nursing care. Hours in the community constantly fluctuate.
Should a care worker lose a client and it takes us time to replace them, the worker cannot be paid in the interim because the care provider does not get paid.
Alternative work will be offered which the employee can turn down and often does. On a standard contract workers would not have this choice and would work as isntructed by their employer, which may upset their work-life balance.
A survey of workers carried out by my company ascertained that the majority were not interested in standard contracts, preferring the flexibility afforded by a zero hours agreement.
Currently workers are able to dictate their hours within a certain range.
Most prefer this because of the flexibility it gives around priorities like family life, childcare, and autonomy in their employment.
Care providers may find it a lot easier to use standard contracts. It would give them more say over what the workers do, instead of the other way round. However there is no current viable alternative if care providers are to stay in business.
Using standard contracts in this industry would be like constantly paying from an account where insufficient funds are being deposited. The money would soon run out and services and jobs would be compromised.
I can only speak for the care industry in saying that the way we pay our care workers has nothing to do with exploiting them.
Currently it is keeping the industry stable and able to deliver when people want service delivery, while keeping a happy and flexible workforce.
In the case of clients who receive direct payments, these people are not charged for services not carried out. They can only pay for the time worked.
Workers generally get the hours they need and they get holidays and sick pay in the same way as people on standard contracts, plus the freedom to have other employment if they choose—though usually the hours they get are enough that they don’t need to.
Mr Milliband will shoot himself in the foot if he bans zero hours contracts. If an employer is not being paid, they cannot pay their staff. It would drive them out of business throw the care industry into even more chaos.
It begs the question: has Mr Milliband got a plan to cover this eventuality?