Gateshead MP proposes bill to end 'scandalous and unreasonable' zero hours contracts

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns has proposed a bill which will be debated in the House of Commons on Friday

Simon Hobson Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead
Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead

A campaign against the controversial zero hours contracts will be taken to Parliament by a North MP.

Ian Mearns, who represents the Gateshead constituency for Labour, is proposing a private members’ bill on Friday in the House of Commons in a bid to end the contracts.

He says that the contracts erode workers’ rights and that businesses need to take more responsibility.

The MP’s bill will require employers to treat zero hours contract workers on the same basis as comparable workers on regular working hours contracts.

It would also allow zero hour contract workers who have been employed for 12 weeks to receive a contract for fixed and regular hours and employers to give reasonable notice.

It would mean that if a shift is cancelled with less than 72 hours’ notice then the employee will be paid in full.

The bill would also see that exclusivity clauses are banned so workers would be free to seek additional employment.

It comes as Labour makes wages and zero hours contracts central to their General Election campaign.

It also comes just days after leader Ed Miliband took aim at retailer Sports Direct for their use of what he called the “exploitative contracts”.

Labour claims 17,000 of Sports Direct’s 20,000 UK staff are not guaranteed regular hours.

In response the company has said it was reviewing some of its employment procedures.

Defenders of the contracts say they offer employees flexibility.

Ian Mearns said: “It is downright scandalous and unreasonable for companies such as Sports Direct to employ regular staff on zero hours contracts.

“Zero hours contracts are supposed to be for short-term or seasonal work, but it is clear that they are being used by unscrupulous employers who seem to think that we still live in Victorian times to dodge their responsibilities towards their staff.

“If the Government is serious about wanting to tackle in-work poverty and job insecurity then they will back my Bill to ban the abuse of zero hours contracts this Friday.”

The bill will be debated by MPs on Friday.

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