It is not often that anything hits the news that I have first hand experience off, so it has been interesting listening to recent talk about “Zero Hours Contracts”. A report, recently published, suggests that there are far more employees on these contracts than official figures state. The majority of news coverage I have come across puts forward the argument against these contracts as being too heavily weighted in favour of the employer; they allow the employer to be able to call an employee as and when they wish them to work rather than committing to a specified number of hours per-week in advance.
I have a strong sympathy for this left leaning stance, employment should be a collaboration between employer and employee, there should be a balance of rights and responsibilities, however, it turns out that Stan’s Cafe engages most of its team on Zero Hours Contracts and my conscience is clear on the matter. Our position can be found represented in the coverage but I haven’t heard it given as much prominence.
In years gone by actors could be engaged as self-employed workers. They would therefore be paid a fee and deal with their own tax and national insurance, no doubt claiming various items against expenses along the way. Then the rules started to toughen up on what could be classified as self-employment, for a while things were touch and go, an argument was mounted that as ‘co-creators of the work’ our actors were not employed by the company but called in to deliver a service. However in recent years the criteria for self-employment have made it quite clear that our actors can’t be classified as self-employed, the stipulation that sticks most strikingly in my mind is that actors have to turn up when you call them so they are employees, if they could wander in when ever they fancy so long as they get the job done then maybe there would be a self-employment argument – but they can’t.
So we have to employ our actors, but with the best will in the world it is difficult to string very many weeks work together at a time so the administrative burden of signing people on and off miniature conventional contracts complete with P45 forms when they ‘leave’ would be ridiculous. The Zero Hours Contract makes perfect sense in this scenario, the hours are the same as freelance hours but National Insurance contributions are made and the actors have greater employment rights. Employees aren’t compelled to exploit these contracts to their full potential, if touring dates fall so there a few extra days off between gigs then actors are paid for these, good will is worth more than brutal money saving and we try not to be scum bags.