McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers
Fast-food chain makes move after staff complained they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and phone contracts
McDonald’s is to offer 115,000 UK workers on controversial zero-hours contracts the option of moving to fixed contracts with a minimum number of guaranteed hours every week.
The move is a significant development in the debate about employee rights because McDonald’s is one of the biggest users of zero-hours contracts in the country. Sports Direct has also used workers on zero-hour contracts in its shops.
The fast-food chain is to offer fixed-hours contracts after staff in its restaurants complained they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they were not guaranteed employment each week.
Zero-hour contracts are controversial because companies can use them to exploit workers, offering unpredictable working hours and changing shifts at short notice.
The TUC has called for the government to ban zero-hours contracts. It has found that staff on these contracts earns a third less per hour than the average worker.
McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed-hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts and it has seen an increase in levels of employee and customer satisfaction after the offer. Staff have been offered contracts in line with the average hours per week they work. This includes contracts of either four, eight, 16, 30 or 35 hours a week.
The company will initially expand fixed contracts to 50 more restaurants before rolling it out nationwide to existing and new employees later this year.
Paul Pomroy, the chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said: “The vast majority of our employees are happy with their flexible contracts, but some have told us that more fixed hours would help them get better access to some financial products.”
Pomroy denied that McDonald’s was reacting to political pressure by making the change. “We are reflecting people’s lives. In a growing business we need people to come and work for us, it’s a mutually beneficial approach,” he added.
The McDonald’s boss also confirmed that staff who are paid by the hour have had their pay increased by an average of 15% since April 2015.
“The hard work of our restaurant teams has enabled us to deliver 44 consecutive quarters of growth in the UK,” Pomroy said. “It’s right that we continue to invest in our people so they can deliver the experience that our customers want and expect.”
The changes are part of a modernisation drive by McDonald’s that includes the launch of a premium burger, digital touchscreens in restaurants and a new delivery service that will be trialled from June alongside a partner such as Deliveroo.
McDonald’s has defended zero-hours contracts in the past, saying they offer flexibility to workers. However, the company has been targeted by protesters over its treatment of staff. Earlier this month, campaigners from Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero dressed as clowns and demonstrated outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Glasgow over its use of zero-hours contracts.
The TUC has warned that 3.5 million people could be stuck in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, agency work or low-paid self-employment by 2022 – 290,000 more than at present.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “MPs aren’t the only ones feeling insecure in their jobs right now. If nothing changes, hundreds of thousands more Brits could be stuck in insecure work, being treated like disposable labour. That’s the same as 13 extra Sports Directs, or the entire working population of Sheffield.
“Paying rent and bills can be a nightmare when you don’t know how much you’ve got coming in each month. And planning childcare is impossible when you’re constantly at the beck and call of employers.
“The next government will need to tackle this problem head on. Every party manifesto must have real commitments to crack down on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment. And agency workers should always get the going rate for the job.”