* UPDATE: 25 JUNE 2014 *
Business secretary Vince Cable has moved to ban ‘exclusivity’ clauses in zero-hours contracts, which have tied desperate workers to one employer, even when that employer won’t guarantee them any work at all. It’s a start, but critics say the move doesn’t go far enough, as workers on zero-hours contracts are still given too little notice about when their shifts are to enable them to plan their time properly. What do you think? Is this change enough to help you – or do the rules need to be even tougher to keep employers from taking advantage?

If you’re working part-time while you hunt for a permanent graduate job, do you know how many shifts you’ll be given this week – or what your income will be this month?

Exact figures are scarce, but it seems that thousands of graduates are being caught out by so-called “zero hours” contracts, the controversial agreements that allow bosses to demand part-time staff are always available to work, but where the company has no obligation to give workers any shifts at all. Common in retail positions, these contracts are regularly given to graduates desperate to earn money while they look for better-paid, permanent, graduate positions. So, if you’re offered one, should you sign it?

It seems that plenty of cash-strapped young people feel they have no choice. This week, the Guardian revealed that 90% of part-time staff at Sports Direct are employed on a zero-hours contract (that’s 20,000 employees). Then, it emerged that 350 staff at Buckingham Palace work under these conditions, although a spokesperson insisted these were not ‘zero hours’ contracts as when these staff members do work they are given lunch and, er, uniforms (no, we don’t get the logic either). The same report found that all of cinema chain Cineworld’s part-time multiplex staff are on zero-hours contracts, as are many employees at the Tate galleries in London, Liverpool and Cornwall.

As one of the first websites to write about these controversial zero-hours contracts (almost a year ago), Graduate Fog thinks it’s time to revisit the subject. So, what do you think? If you’re desperate for work, should you sign a zero-hours contract – or tell the employer to stick it? If you’ve done a zero-hours contract, did it work for you? Post your comment below…

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