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NHS using increasing number of 'zero hour' contracts


The NHS is using an increasing number of zero hour contracts which could lead to “casualisation” of the workforce in the health service, Labour has warned.

Almost 70,000 NHS staff are employed using such contracts, under which workers are not guaranteed a certain numbers of hours, figures suggest.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham raised concerns that the NHS was increasingly favouring casual contracts over offering permanent roles.

Labour’s latest NHS Check report showed that in 2012-13 there were more than 67,000 NHS staff employed this way compared to 57,000 in 2009-10.

The report detailed how three-quarters of hospital trusts in England were using such contracts.

It also stated that 300,000 social care workers were employed this way - 20% of the entire workforce for the sector.

The report stated: “If the staff do not have the security of knowing what they will earn from week to week, they could find it harder to give a sense of security to those they care for.”

Mr Burnham called on the government to review the use of zero hour contracts and their impact on patients and older people.

He said: “These figures provide worrying evidence of the rise of the zero-hours culture in England’s NHS and of the growing casualisation of the NHS workforce under David Cameron.

“Health and care is different from other sectors. Good care cannot be provided on a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ basis,” he said. “Services and staff need to be there for people day in, day out. The spread of the zero hours culture to the NHS risks disrupting clinical teams and continuity of care.

“It is only when staff have security themselves that they can provide the best possible care. The undermining of staff in this way will never bring the quality of care we all aspire to for vulnerable people,” he added.

“How can people who have no certainty about what they will bring into the family home from one week to the next, pass on a sense of certainty to those they care for?”

Mr Burnham went on to say: “There has been a massive expansion of the use of zero hours contracts in the NHS and social care on Cameron’s watch.

“He should act now to cut out the growing cancer and call a halt to this worrying trend of switching staff from permanent to zero hour contracts and urgently review the use of this approach.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “NHS and social care organisations are independent in their own right and make their own employment decisions about their staff.

“But we are clear that these decisions must be based on providing the best patient care.”

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Readers' comments (12)

  • michael stone

    I think it is obvious that zero hour contracts do not help with continuity of patient care, coherent teamworking or career development.

    I'm not saying that all NHS tasks are unsuited to 'zero hour contracts' but surely there are an awful lot of NHS roles which are inherently unsuited in performance (as opposed to monetary) terms to zero hours contracts.

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  • I have a permanent contract and I am aware of not giving my best care as I constantly worry about either being made redundant or down banded / graded.

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  • Mike Stone
    There is NO job that is suited for a zero-hour contract, in the NHS or elsewhere. it is indentured slavery with a new name.

    What have we become in this country? Is this what Maggie broke the Unions for, so that Corporations have more rights than the human beings who work for them? So she, a mere grocers daughter, could give back the rights and privileges fought for centuries from the people to the land and mill owner? So she could go to rich persons Hell? ( Eye of the needle and all that) ( I hope that the awld biitch is drinking molten sulphur as we speak).

    The saboteurs in today are not just dismantling things, they are smashing them in a way that they can never be put back together, whilst one half of the nation waits with baited breath for the next vestigial-tailed inbred ( what do you mean, Nanny, when you say that Great-Grandpappa is my great-uncle and my great-cousin? On both sides?!?) and the other side prepares to riot as the summer gets hotter and hotter ( the Devil makes work for idle hands).

    Still, a Scot has won Wimbledon, the British and Irish Lions have smashed the Wallabies and the cricket looks promising! Food banks and circuses! Let them eat McDonalds!

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  • michael stone

    redpaddys12 | 13-Jul-2013 11:16 am

    Red, I agree with you if by zero-hours contract, you mean 'at the beck-and-call of your potential employer, but with no guarantee of any actual work'.

    But if a zero-hours contract were 'We ask you if you want to work when we need extra staff' then that is different - but that only works as a variation on self-employment, not as a replacement for employed staff. But even if it suited someone - and 'we need our lawns mown - can you do that tomorrow ?' might suit some people - it cannot possibly make sense where a lot of teamwork is involved, which is the situation in much of healthcare.

    I actually agree with you - I don't like this zero hours development.

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  • Mike Stone
    I mean the former. It is happening now in supermarkets up and down the country and means that you CANNOT claim unemployment benefit even if your employer offers you zero hours that week ( or any subsequent weeks) as you are classed as employed. Remember that the next time you shop in Te-sco's that the person stacking shelves might have had only a few hours work that week, and then boycott the feckers.

    we already have the latter, it's called the Nurse Bank.

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  • michael stone

    redpaddys12 | 13-Jul-2013 9:47 pm

    We agree 100%. I don't like zero hours contracts at all - I was merely tring to point out that as well as them being biased and unethical, for HCPs they will probably ALSO be 'dangerous for the patient'.

    I'm now waiting for someone from the Political Right to explain why they are a good idea ?

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  • Mike Stone

    I'll tell you, because it will reduce the tax burden on these companies further, stimulating growth. It will also reduce the burden to the State to not pay these benefits. Or some such other tripe.

    Have you now joined the broadband revolution at home Mike?

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  • I've been working to a zero hours contract for the past 8 years with two different agencies. C'est la vie.

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  • The fact that they're called 'Zero Contracts' debases the whole process and also shows that there is no contract at all. The Unions need to be on the case as when a worker has been working 'normal hours' for 3 months that is 'custom & practice' and they need to be made a permanent employee. The employers are taking advantage of the fact that staff are worried about losing their 'jobs' if they speak out or contact/join a union. These 'contracts' used to be called 'bank work' for permanent staff to work overtime (at basic rates! Previously we were paid at overtime rates according to grade!). I am appalled that the NHS is widely putting staff on 'zero contracts' and think we need a national campaign against same. Although the Labour Party has a chequered history with it's handling of the NHS (post Thatcher) I think we need to thank Andy Burnham MP for raising this unacceptable working practice & get behind him to bring an end to same.

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  • michael stone

    redpaddys12 | 14-Jul-2013 1:39 pm

    'Have you now joined the broadband revolution at home Mike?'

    No. still only online in the library - but, and this seems strange at the moment, Coventry's libraries doubled the amount of free online time you can have (to 2 hours from 1) about 2 months ago (and it can also be split into separate chunks now): i realise this will not ahve pleased everyone, who posts on NT.

    'I'll tell you, because it will reduce the tax burden on these companies further, stimulating growth. It will also reduce the burden to the State to not pay these benefits. Or some such other tripe.'

    I was waiting for an answer which isn't obvious 'tripe' - I'm with you, stimulating growth without distribution of the improved 'wealth' reasonably equitably, isn't enough. Not that I'm keen on getting into discussions of politics or religion - fixed views, so what's the point ?

    Alyson Lawson | 14-Jul-2013 8:32 pm

    No argument from me - I wish you luck !

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