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Comment: Fact Check – would banning zero-hours contracts harm more people than it would help? By Prof Jason Heyes

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

“So while Matthew’s report is clear that many workers value the flexibility that zero-hours contracts offer them, and that banning such contracts altogether would harm more people than it would help, it is important that we continue to ensure that employers do not use these contracts to exploit people.”
– Theresa May, speaking at the launch of a report by Matthew Taylor on working practices in the UK on July 11.

Zero-hours contracts allow employers to hire workers ad hoc without guaranteeing them a minimum number of hours a week. There were 905,000 people on zero-hours contract between October to December 2016, but they remain controversial. The Labour Party has promised to ban them, but the government remains committed to keeping the rules that allow this kind of casual employment.

In her comments, the prime minister was referring to a section in the Taylor Report on zero-hours contracts, which states: “To ban zero-hours contracts in their totality would negatively impact many more people than it helped.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed to The Conversation that this statement was based on a Labour Force Survey published in March 2017 – also mentioned in the Taylor Report – which found that “68% of those on zero-hours contracts do not want more hours”.

Scant evidence

Apart from this 68% figure, the Taylor Report provides few other clues to the assumptions underpinning the claim. Yet how many would prefer to work the same number of hours but with contracts that offered them greater certainty? If employers were required to provide a guaranteed minimum number of hours, what impact would that have on overall employment and the employment opportunities open to workers with different circumstances? These questions have received insufficient attention.

One in seven care workers were employed on zero-hours contracts in 2016. via shutterstock.com

The Taylor Report mentions that almost a fifth of people on zero-hours contracts are in full-time education. A ban on zero-hours contracts might make it more difficult for some of these individuals to combine paid work and studying, but we do not know what percentage would simply seek a more regular part-time job.

A similar issue arises in relation to those with caring responsibilities: for some, zero-hours contracts might provide a good means of fitting work around care commitments, but what percentage would prefer a contract that offered greater certainty? Evidence relating to these issues is lacking.

How to measure cost and benefits

The lack of detailed, regularly collected and nationally representative data about the consequences of zero-hours contracts for workers, and employers, limits our ability to debate the pros and cons of a complete ban. Respondents to the Labour Force Survey are asked whether they are employed on a zero-hours contract, but are not asked about the consequences for their well-being, job satisfaction and quality of life. The Understanding Society Survey, which does examine issues such as well-being and quality of life, does not explicitly ask respondents whether they are employed on a zero-hours contract.

The costs and benefits associated with zero-hours contracts potentially extend beyond those who are employed under such contracts. For workers with families, the uncertainty associated with zero-hours contracts may have implications for the well-being and standard of living of all household members. These wider consequences would presumably need to be taken into account in any assessment of whether a ban would harm more people than it would benefit.

To fully assess the claim we would also need to define what we mean by negative and positive impacts. And to consider whether the nature and scale of harmful and beneficial effects resulting from a ban might vary between different groups. For example, might the potential “harm” to a student resulting from a loss of flexibility be outweighed by the potential benefit – in terms of increased financial security and reduced anxiety – to an older individual from having a more reliable income? And might that potential benefit be considered even greater if that individual has children?

Even if it were true that a ban on zero-hours contracts would hurt more people than it would help, that would not necessarily be sufficient grounds for retaining zero-hours contracts. We would also need to consider the nature and consequences of the gains and losses in order to assess the overall impact on society.

Verdict

In the absence of evidence that would enable us to more accurately assess the potential positive and negative impacts of a ban on zero-hours contracts, the claim that a ban would hurt many more people than it would help surely amounts to speculation rather than hard fact.

Review

Keith Bender, SIRE chair in economics, University of Aberdeen

Overall, I agree with the verdict. There is little data in the Taylor Report to support the government’s claim. The key question when looking at costs and benefits is “compared to what?” The 68% figure mentioned in the report can be contrasted with further data from the March 2017 report from the Office for National Statistics showing that over 90% of those not on zero-hours contracts do not want more hours – a sizeable difference.

The graph below shows that zero-hours workers are much more likely to want an additional job, a replacement job with more hours or more hours on the current job. It may be that a zero-hours jobs are better than no job, but in terms of hours, these ONS statistics suggest that they do not compare favourably with other types of contracts.

I agree with the author that more research needs to be done in this area to draw any conclusions. Key to that will be understanding the “voluntariness” of zero-hours contracts – understanding who wants them because of desired flexibility and who are forced into them because of a lack of other types of contracts.

The ConversationThe Conversation is is checking claims made by public figures and prominent in public debates. Statements are checked by an academic with expertise in the area. A second academic expert then reviews an anonymous copy of the article. Please get in touch if you spot a claim you would like us to check by emailing us at uk-factcheck@theconversation.com. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

#12daysofthinking – the Management School’s contribution

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

In December 2016, the University of Sheffield ran a campaign sharing academic reflections on the most pressing issues facing our society, via Twitter and shef.ac.uk.

Here we share the Management School’s contributions. You can see all of the activity by searching the #12daysofthinking hashtag.

Prof Jim Haslam on The State of our Planet:

12-days-Haslam

Dr Christine Sprigg, Prof Pauline Dibben, Dr Chris Stride and Prof Jason Heyes on The World of Work:

12-days-Sprigg

12-days-Pibben

12-days-Stride

12-days-Heyes

Dr Geoff Nichols on Our Health:

12-days-Nichols

How might Brexit affect UK employment rights? In the European Financial Review

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Article originally published in the European Financial Review on October 22, 2016

The potential consequences of Brexit for UK employment rights was hotly debated during the referendum campaign. Some fear that a bonfire will be lit under workers’ rights if the UK leaves the European Union. This article, however, argues that the government is likely to adopt a more cautious approach.

The potential consequences of Brexit for UK employment rights was a prominent issue in the debate that preceded the referendum. Many employment entitlements are underpinned by European Directives that establish a basic floor of rights for all EU and EEA member countries. The Directives cover issues such as working time, parental leave, equal treatment and information and consultation. In the lead up to the referendum, the TUC warned that Brexit would put these rights at risk while Jeremy Corbyn predicted a “bonfire” of rights should the UK leave the EU.

There were good reasons to be concerned. Over the past 30 years both Conservative and Labour governments have regarded employment rights as potentially damaging to the UK’s economic performance and have sought to preserve the “flexibility” of the labour market. Consecutive Conservative Party general election manifestos have promised to “repatriate” powers over employment rights from Brussels to the UK, claiming that EU Directives impose unreasonable costs on business and damage competitiveness. In the run up to his EU membership negotiations in late 2015 it was anticipated that David Cameron would demand that the UK be granted opt-outs from Directives relating to working time and temporary agency workers. In the end these demands, which would have required substantial treaty changes, were never made, but no-one should doubt the genuine desire of many Conservative politicians to end EU influence on UK employment legislation.

Similarly, most employers are not clamouring for the repeal of Equality Act, which provides workers with a right to be treated equally, and it is doubtful that any government would perceive permitting employers to discriminate against large sections of UK society to be a vote winning reform.

 

So what might happen next? As with everything related to Brexit, much will depend on the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. It is widely assumed that the UK government will seek to maintain access to the single market, but unless there is a substantial change in EU policy, access will be contingent on the UK continuing to adhere to EU social policy Directives. Given that the Directives are intended to prevent countries from gaining competitive advantages through social dumping, it is extremely unlikely that the UK could be part of the single market while having the freedom to completely ignore EU social policy.

Other scenarios, such as a UK-EU Free Trade Agreement (the so-called “Canada option”), would leave the UK with more freedom to make changes to employment rights and mean that future rulings of the European Court of Justice would not be binding on the UK. What might we expect to see then?

To continue reading log in to the European Financial Review here

An insight into policy – a GLOSS delegation visits the ILO in Geneva

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

ILO2  ILO1

As part of the Senate Award winning GLOSS programme, Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Tom Hastings took a delegation of students to the 326th session of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Governing Body in Geneva, Switzerland.

This fully-funded trip was one of many offered by the programme, which you can read more about here.

Six undergraduates and postgraduates from across the Faculty of Social Sciences joined Jason and Tom on the visit, including Management School MSc student Monisha Khanna who said: “I remember reading an email from the office of the Associate Dean for Learning & Teaching that mentioned this opportunity. It looked really interesting, so I researched the different GLOSS programmes and the Geneva/ILO opportunity stood out for me.

“I am an MSc Occupational Psychology student and the focus of the ILO’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) programme mapped back to some of my areas of interest and study. The ILO’s 2016 World Employment and Social Outlook Report also really resonated with me, so I was curious to get first-hand experience about the inner workings of the Governing Body.”

Aware that her interests aligned with those discussed by the ILO, Monisha was successful in her application and left for Geneva with the team in March. She continued: “Being invited to observe the 326th session of the Governing Body was definitely one of the highlights of my Management School experience. The agenda items covered timely global issues such as promoting fair and effective migration policies. It was really interesting to see how the tripartite system of workers, employers and governments worked together in handling complaints and developing policy. We were also privileged to meet with a few ILO officials who were generous enough to give us a private talk about their work.

“Jason and Tom went out of their way to ensure we had a meaningful educational and cultural experience. With the notion of ‘change’ being a constant in the world of work, understanding how the ILO members promote social dialogue on a global scale, was a valuable experience. This is one of the many benefits of attending international meetings and conferences – immersing yourself into new experiences and then sharing what you learned in real time.”

Following the Governing Body meeting, Monisha wrote a briefing which discusses the notions of decent and safe work which tied in with the ILO’s annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April. Click here to read it in full.

Leading innovators in learning and teaching awarded by Senate

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

For the fourth year running, the Management School has achieved success in the University’s prestigious Senate Awards.

Prof Paul Latreille, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching at the Management School, scooped the prestigious Senate Award for Leadership in Learning and Teaching. On his win, he said: “I’m delighted with this acknowledgement from the University. We’ve worked hard to become leading innovators in learning and teaching and to deliver an outstanding student experience, and it hasn’t just been my efforts: without an exceptional team of supportive academic and professional services colleagues, this award wouldn’t have been possible. I’m proud of the entire School and this award is a further reflection of our collegiality and the great things we can achieve together.”

Andrea Ward, University Teacher and Postgraduate Director for Teaching Quality and Enhancement, has been awarded the Early Career Senate Award. She was praised for being a dedicated, inspirational teacher and mentor who makes the most of available technology, saying: “My teaching approach is facilitative encouraging participation and to provoke thinking to enable them to reach their potential by helping them create the ability and skill to decipher real world situations. It’s an honour to have this acknowledged by the University.”

The final award, for Collaborative Activities, was a group presentation to the Global Leadership Initiative Team (GLOSS), including Management School academic staff Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings. For the past two years Jason and Tom have arranged for groups of Sheffield students to attend meetings of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation, a specialist agency of the United Nations. Thanks to Jason and Tom’s efforts, the students have spent a week in Geneva meeting ILO officials and learning about the realities of international policy making. Their commitment to securing valuable international opportunities for students in the social sciences has made a significant difference to student experience across the Faculty.

Dean of the Management School, Prof David Oglethorpe, reflected on the announcement: “I couldn’t be prouder of our achievements in learning and teaching and some of these have been recognised formally by the University again this year with four Management School staff achieving Senate awards. This is the fourth year running that the Management School has members of staff receiving these awards – a true reflection of our commitment to ensuring excellent, innovative teaching provision for students.”

Click here to read more about the Senate Awards and winners across the university.

Encouraging innovation: SUMS team aim to improve labour conditions worldwide

Monday, March 14th, 2016

SA1 SA2 SA3

Members of the WOERRC research centre, Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings, recently took their expertise in employment rights to Durban in South Africa.

The duo trained members of the South African Department of Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services unit, using their newly developed toolkit – designed for the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The training, a pilot to check the quality of the toolkit, sought to educate labour inspectors further on issues relating to informal employment in South Africa and the potential risks for workers. Labour inspectors are responsible for inspecting workplaces, investigating bad practice and taking action where employers are failing to comply with the requirements of labour legislation. However, labour inspection in the informal economy, where employers might be hard to identify, is fraught with difficulties. Jason and Tom’s aim was to enhance the effectiveness of labour inspection in the informal economy by raising awareness, encouraging innovation and helping inspectors to identify obstacles and ways of getting around them.

South Africa was appropriate for a pilot training session as it has a large informal economy, which includes formal enterprises and formal sector businesses employing people on an informal basis. Jason and Tom created a dialogue with the inspectors through the session, and gathered feedback on its success. The course evaluation was extremely positive and the inspectors mentioned a variety of lessons and new ideas which they intended to implement in their work.

The training toolkit translates academic research into practical application and is designed to be universal – one section can be tailored to the country it is being used in. Jason said: “This is a toolkit designed for labour inspectorates all over the world. We hope to run sessions in other developing countries. By trialling it in this way, we will gather feedback that can inform future developments in the toolkit.”

Comment: Why Brexit would be bad for employment rights, by Prof Jason Heyes

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Originally published on The Conversation.

Imagine a country in which there is no statutory right to paid holiday, no legal limit on the number of hours employees can be required to work, no right to a daily rest period, no laws to prevent employers discriminating against workers who are disabled or who have particular religious beliefs, and no right for employees to take time off work to look after a sick child.

This was the UK before the New Labour government was elected in 1997. Since then a substantial number of employment rights have been introduced – most of which have their roots in EU legislation.

Thanks to the EU, employers cannot treat part-time workers less favourably than full-time workers, working parents have a right to take leave to look after their children, and temporary agency workers and workers with fixed-term contracts are entitled to the same basic conditions as comparable workers with permanent contracts.

Employees also have rights to paid holiday and rest periods, as well as the right to be informed and consulted about matters that directly concern them at work. Employers, meanwhile, are forbidden from discriminating against their employees on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. There’s strong reason to believe that many of these rights would be lost should Britain leave the EU.

Intolerable meddling?

For many in the Out campaign, the EU’s influence on UK employment rights amounts to intolerable meddling. Consecutive Conservative Party general election manifestos, for example, have promised to “repatriate” powers over employment rights from Brussels to the UK. Until recently, the current government had implied that it would not support a continuation of the UK’s EU membership without an opt-out from EU legislation covering employment rights.

In the run up to David Cameron’s EU membership negotiations, it was widely reported that he would demand a full opt-out for the UK from the EU’s working-time directive and the agency workers’ directive.

In the end these demands were never made. They would have required substantial treaty changes that would never have been countenanced by the other 27 members of the EU.

The case against being bound by EU employment rights legislation is that it is damaging to the UK economy, imposing substantial costs on employers. But the UK labour market remains one of the most lightly regulated in the EU, despite the influence of EU legislation.

David Cameron did not negotiate any employment opt-outs in his deal with the EU.
EPA/Olivier Hoslet

EU employment laws have generally been introduced in a minimalist way. UK workers are “free” to opt-out of the 48 hours-per-week limit set by the working-time directive. Rights to information and consultation do not apply to firms with fewer than 50 employees. Plus, many agency workers are not entitled to the same pay as directly employed workers doing the same job.

Employment protection legislation, which regulates dismissals, is weaker in the UK than in most other developed economies, as measured by the OECD’s index of employment protection. The EU has some influence in this area, for example by requiring employee consultation where collective redundancies are planned. But matters such as notice and probation periods are not regulated by the EU. And, when the 2010-15 coalition government extended the minimum amount of time someone had to work for a company before being able to claim unfair dismissal (from one year to two), it had no difficulty in doing so.

Going its own way

There are many employment-related issues that are not subject to EU legislation. These include pay (the National Minimum Wage is a home-grown policy), industrial action, and vocational training. Enforcement mechanisms, which are essential if rights are to be respected in practice, are also a matter for national governments alone and the recent introduction of a fees regime for employment tribunals has effectively weakened enforcement in the UK.

If the UK leaves the EU, it not clear that there will be a bonfire of employment legislation. Much would depend on the UK’s subsequent relationship with the EU, which would need to be negotiated. If the UK became part of the European Economic Area, it might continue to be bound by EU Directives covering employment and social issues.

Even if Brexit left the UK free to dismantle employment rights, a Conservative government wishing to be re-elected might see little political advantage in removing rights to parental leave or allowing employers to discriminate against people because of their religion or sexual orientation. It is highly likely, however, that the EU’s working-time regulations, which is a particular bug-bear for the Conservative Party, and the regulations for agency workers would be amended or repealed.

It is also conceivable that rights relating to transferred staff and the right to information and consultation when changes are made to your job would be weakened. Were the Conservative Party to remain in power and shift further to the right, however, there would be little to prevent a far more substantial attack on employment rights.

Workers have gained much from the UK’s membership of the EU and there are clear benefits to society from limiting working time, outlawing discrimination and providing entitlements to parental leave. Many of those who wish to end EU influence over UK employment legislation have one aim in mind – to take employment rights away from workers. If the UK leaves the EU, they are likely to have their way.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Where now for flexicurity? – new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief

Monday, March 7th, 2016

A new SPERI Global Political Economy Brief, published today, presents new research by SPERI Associate Fellows Professor Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings. The Brief shows that across the EU there has been a significant shift towards weaker job security and employment support since the global financial crisis.

Click here to download the report.

Key findings

  • Analysis of data from 19 European states shows that governments across the EU have increased labour market flexibility by weakening and removing employee protections, but have not increased support to help people back into the labour market.
  • This is a European-wide trend, but the dramatic shifts have been in southern Eurozone countries that have received financial bailouts.
  • The findings raise serious questions about the viability of the EU’s ‘flexicurity’ agenda which underpins the European Commission’s social policy and labour market programmes. Flexicurity is based on the idea that modern labour markets should be flexible but should also offer strong support and security for workers.

Professor Jason Heyes:

“In post-crisis Europe there has been a significant policy shift towards a more liberal model of weaker job security and increased labour market flexibility. This is a continent-wide trend and the UK is at the forefront. Britain’s highly flexible labour market used to be an outlier in Europe but now other countries’ systems are looking more like ours.

“Across European Union states it has become easier to lay-off workers, adult training and education provision is declining, and social security systems are being restructured with greater conditionality and ‘workfare’ approaches to benefit entitlements.

“Unless the European Commission and national governments start to remake the case for flexicurity then the prospects for its implementation across Europe look gloomy. However, this would require governments and the Troika to reverse their commitment to austerity and there are no signs that this is at all likely.”

Dr Thomas Hastings:

“The ‘European Social Model’ of strong employee protection and state support to help people back into work appears to be unravelling. No country bucks the trends of moving away from this model. Austerity economic policies are being prioritised over social policies, and this is seen most clearly in the southern states of Spain, Portugal and Greece where the Troika has demanded strict reforms.”

Research toolkit will improve working lives on a global scale

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

MS066

A toolkit developed by experts at the Management School will help ensure that organisations operating in informal economies worldwide are upholding labour standards and respecting employee rights.

Created following research by Professor Jason Heyes (pictured above) and Dr Thomas Hastings, both from the WOERRC research centre, the document entitled Extending Labour Inspection to the Informal Economy, was commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) – a specialised UN agency with 186 member countries.

Professor Heyes, who has worked with the ILO since 1998, commented on the project: “The ILO creates, promotes and upholds labour standards in all of its member states. I work with the Governance and Tripartism Department, which is responsible for providing member countries and social partners with advice and support on matters connected to labour administration and labour inspection. Labour inspectorates are government bodies that, through proactive and reactive inspection work, play a vital role in improving employer compliance with employment rights.

“This toolkit is intended to help labour inspectorates to address employment rights issues in the informal economy, thereby increasing the protection provided to vulnerable workers. Most ILO member countries have a labour inspectorate of some kind – they check workplaces and ensure employers are respecting employment rights, including issues such as minimum wage requirements, health and safety concerns, holiday entitlements, freedom to join trade unions and equal opportunities in the workplace.”

The innovative, easy-to-use toolkit has been designed to connect new academic theories with practice, via actions taken by the inspectorates. It will develop the ILO’s capacity to provide support to countries tackling issues related to the informal economy, and will increase the effectiveness and knowledge of inspectors in improving protection for employees.

The toolkit is accompanied by an online message-board, where users can discuss how the toolkit has impacted on their role and feed-back information to the research team at Sheffield. Dr Hastings discussed further testing of the toolkit: “In December, we will present the toolkit and project findings to senior ILO officials in Prague. Then we hope that it will be trialled in South Africa in the New Year, and are exploring further international testing options throughout 2016. It has a global reach, as we have considered cultural differences throughout and the toolkit can easily be adapted to benefit countries all over the world.”

The practical implications of the toolkit are huge, and align with WOERRC’s mission to promote decent work and decent workplaces and the Management School’s commitment to supporting socially responsible work practices across the world.

This research was funded the ILO and an ESRC Impact Accelerator Award.
Click here to download the toolkit.

Award-winning learning and teaching at SUMS

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

TESS-Award-Jason

Two Management School academics scooped TESS (Teaching Excellence in Social Sciences) awards for outstanding learning and teaching this year.

Senior Teacher in Finance, Jonathan Jeffery, who has previously been acknowledged for his innovative teaching methods, and Professor Jason Heyes (pictured above, second from left) both received awards from Professor Jackie Marsh, Faculty of Social Sciences Director of Learning and Teaching.

Jason’s involvement in the Faculty’s GLOSS programme led to his team award. He has fully engaged with GLOSS (Global Learning Opportunities in the Social Sciences), leading a trip with students to the International Labour Organisation’s governing body meeting in Geneva. Read more about GLOSS here.

Jon led the charge in installing the Management School’s Financial Markets Trading Room, and conducts a great deal of teaching with undergraduates and postgraduates in the space – equipping them with skills that are useful in the City.

Well done to both winners!