Jobs: Freelancers warn politicians to tread carefully over zero hours contracts

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People who work as freelancers have warned the government not to cut off employers’ access to legitimate contractors and independent workers if they take action over controversial zero hours contracts.

Zero hours contracts put workers on standby without the certainty of a full-time job but have been criticised as being potentially exploitative.

Chris Bryce, chief executive of the the membership association for freelancers, the PCG said the organisation was in favour of flexibility but not in favour of exploitation.

He said: “There is clearly real potential for zero hours working to fall on the wrong side of this fence and where this happens, action should be taken. The risk is that in trying to protect vulnerable workers, policy makers inadvertently cut off access to legitimate freelancers, contractors and independent workers.”

Mr Bryce added: “As freelancers, we understand and accept the risks involved in our way of working and we are rewarded accordingly. It is not clear that those working on zero hours contracts have chosen that risk and in many cases it seems they have had it forced upon them. Vulnerable workers should be protected but in doing so, the government must not act in haste and introduce legislation which encompasses true freelancers.”

According to Bryce, research conducted by PCG alongside a variety of independent academic bodies show the potential impact of introducing further red tape to Britain’s smallest businesses.

“In 2009, research by Oxford Economics estimated that freelancers contribute 82 billion pounds to the UK economy on an annual basis. What’s more, this number is growing by the year as more businesses wake up to the idea of risk free growth via project-based resource.

“The way we work is changing and British business is benefiting from this change. To group genuine independent professionals with vulnerable workers such as those on zero hour contracts would place a stranglehold on this growth. Tread carefully.”