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Zero-hours workers should be given "right to request" fixed contracts, says review

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Matthew Taylor, head of the Government-commissioned inquiry into working practices, has called for workers on zero-hours contracts to be given the right to request a move onto fixed contracts.

Mr Taylor, also the head of the Royal Society of Arts, said some workers might be being exploited by businesses.

He is due to announce the findings of the inquiry in June.

A right to ask for fixed hours would mirror the legal right to request flexible working, for example, after having a baby.

The existing legislation, introduced in 2014, requires employers to respond “seriously” to a request for flexible working and give reasons for their decision.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) backed the move, and argued that flexible working arrangements should benefit both parties.

“There is a mechanism for the individual to initiate this discussion where they want more flexibility, but not where they want less,” it said.

“A right to request fixed or more fixed hours should be introduced on the same basis as the right to request flexible working, as a more effective tool to address these issues, without undermining workers’ options or the enforcement of the minimum wage.”

Conor D’Arcy, a policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, added: “Introducing a right to request fixed hours for workers on zero-hours contracts would be a bold and welcome move.

“It would address people’s concerns about job insecurity, while maintaining the flexibility of zero-hours contracts for workers that still want them.

“Ministers will need to decide on the qualifying period for this new right, with three months being the best way to align it with other key workers’ rights. With business now backing the plan, it should be introduced whoever wins the election.”

Last month, McDonald’s announced plans to offer its entire UK workforce the opportunity to switch from zero-hours to fixed contracts.

It said 20 per cent of staff have since taken up a fixed-hours contract, with the rest comfortable with no guaranteed hours.