Is there a north/south divide when it comes to views on zero hours contracts?

London HR professionals appear significantly more likely to back the use of zero hours contracts than similar professionals outside the South East of England.

A survey we undertook among attendees at the national DWF employment law update conferences highlighted this significant geographic difference in approach. Only 7.6% of attendees in London thought zero hours contracts would have more disadvantages compared to a national average of 54.7%.

All of the 387 attendees at the employment law conferences at DWF offices in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester this autumn were shown a short video on the legal issues relating to zero hours contracts which you can view here.

Two of our lawyers then debated the motion that there were more advantages than disadvantages in the use of zero hours contracts for most organisations. Those debating were free to use the full extent of their debating skills, but for the sake of consistency were asked to cover key messages and themes. The audience at each location was asked to vote as to whether they thought there were more advantages to using zero hours contracts or not, by handing in coloured cards.

The audience was mostly HR professionals and a few in house lawyers and other business operations managers. The most common job description, applicable to just over 55% of attendees was “HR manager”.

As a whole and across all offices, 54.7% disagreed, feeling there were more disadvantages to zero hours contracts. But uniquely, this disagreement rate plummeted to only 7.6% of attendees at our London conference. The types of organisations represented at all of our conferences, including London, comprised those from the private and public sectors.

Excluding London, the average level of those who considered there were more disadvantages to zero hours contracts was 62%. The highest level of resistance to zero hours contracts was in Edinburgh with over 85% of the attendees considering that they had more disadvantages.

Although you could argue that a survey of this kind has limits, the London attendees appeared ready and willing to accept the benefits of zero hours contracts far more than their fellow professionals elsewhere in the country. The London attendees did not come from a particular sector, but query whether the HR constituencies represented by the attendees at our London event were on the whole better paid than, for example, the Manchester HR constituencies where 62% disagreed. The arguably stronger employment market in the South East might also mean those in HR see zero hours as a perfectly acceptable approach to staffing issues, whereas the weaker employment markets outside the South East are distrustful. It’s also possible that the market discussions around zero hours contracts in the South East mean HR is generally better prepared to deal with issues traditionally associated as problems with zero hours contracts, including lower engagement levels.

In any event, what it does highlight is that for those based in the South East responsible for HR groups outside of that region (and vice versa), they may well be working with fellow HR professionals, managers and employees who have a very different view of zero hours contracts from their own perspective. It also raises the question as to whether any proposed legislation around zero hours contracts might reflect the views of only one part of the country.


This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.