Friday, 10 April 2015

Zero Hour Contracts: Not All Bad

Zero hour contracts seem to be a bit of an issue in this election. Labour wants to ban them and they are portrayed as the most evil things going. I am writting from my own experience and I am aware that my experience and the experience of zero hours contracts in my own industry(health and social care) may not be the same as ohers. My experience of working on a zero hours contract is that I tell my office when I am available and they contact me when they have work available. At the momment I would say I am getting work at least 90% of the time that I want it. The advantage to me is that I can have time of when my husband does, at weekends, over bank holidays, christmas, easter etc. I got paid leave dependent on the number of hours I work, but can take as much time of as and when I like unpaid. If work calls with a shift, I am under no obligation to take it. It means I can regularly attend my speech therapy apointments with out needing to constantly ask collegues if they can swop shifts, I can attend church on Sundays, something which is important to my own faith and spirituality. When it's a friends birthday, I can go out rather than be working. This in my view all gives me a better life than when I worked on a set rota and often felt that I was missing out on quality time with friends and family and committing to being involved in anything wasn't possible due to my shifts. I know collegues who work on zero hours contracts so they can fit round childcare, students who may be living in different places in term time and out of term time can still work, and take a break from working if they need to due to exams or placements. I also know of nurses working a main job in a very specialist field who work extra shift else where on a zero hours contract in order to keep thier more general nursing skills in use. Of course there is a downside, not being sure if you will have work, or how much you will get paid each week, sometimes you get offered work at short notice, although they willl sometimes be flexible on start times e.g. I got a call the other day at 10.45 asking if I could work 12 to 8, I said I wouldn't be able to get there before 1 o'clock and they accepted that. I wouldn't want to be on a zero hours contract ifI was relying on it to pay the bills each month, but as a secondry income that is used mainly for holidays and going out it works. If I were to meet Ed Milliband, I would have a question for him, how would the NHS work without agency staff? Agency staff do not just cover for staff shortags due to illness, annual leave and recruitment. The required staffing level in a ward can vary a lot depending on the patients and their needs, this is especially true in mental health. If a patient is deemed to be at high risk of something happening e.g. falls, self harm, they will be specialed i.e. have a member of staff with them the whole time. If you have more than one patient needing this, you will neeed extra staff, often at short notice when the decision is first made. If you ask your owmn staff to take on extra shifts you will soon got very tired staff with low moral and mistakes begin to happen, and in healthcare that can have serious consenquences, so having extra staff available if needed is vital to ensure good quality care is provided. So, zero hours contracts are not all bad. They are important in being able to manage staff levels to provide good quality care that is responsive to patient need. They may also allow some people to return to the workplace for whom the cost of childcare without flexible working would make it financially impossible. They allow students to earn some extra money without needing to worry about work scheudules clashing with exams etc. Certainly in health and social care zero hours contracts seem to work.