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Towards an understanding of Zero-Hours Contracts as a variegated phenomenon: Evidence from the UK Higher Education sector

Henry, Kyle Richard 2020. Towards an understanding of Zero-Hours Contracts as a variegated phenomenon: Evidence from the UK Higher Education sector. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Since 2013, official labour market statistics have documented an exponential rise in the use of Zero-Hours Contracts (ZHCs) which do not guarantee employees a minimum number of hours. The growth in ZHCs been accompanied by an explosion of interest and a vigorous legislative and policy debate. A problematic theme that runs throughout these development is that the current discourse rests on an unspoken assumptions that ZHCs constitute a singular or homogenous category employment. However, since the term ZHC is now far more widely used and broadly defined, it actually encompasses a wide variety of employment arrangements. This thesis contributes much needed evidence on the use of ZHCs in the UK Higher Education (HE) sector. The empirical basis of the investigation is two in-depth institutional case studies involving an analysis of management data and contractual documents as well as 57 semi-structured interviews with Human Resource Personnel, Departmental Managers, Trade Union Representatives and Employees. The thesis initially argues that employment that can now be labelled as ZHCs in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) has been in use for some time as part of a wider move toward a more employer-led approach to flexibility. Until recently, however, a different terminology has been used and this places doubts on how far the notion of “Zero-Hours Contracts” represents a new or distinctive form of casualisation. Nevertheless, it is posited that the number of contracts within each of the institutions indicates that existing measures of prevalence may significantly underreport levels of use in HE. The thesis then explores the variegated nature of Zero-Hours Contracts for academic and non-academic roles in relation to three major aspects of the employment relationship: working time; employee obligation; and rights and entitlements. For each of these aspects, the research finds that product market and other contextual factors produce a variety of practices that can be mapped onto a series of continuums. While the findings have some precedent in the literature, the thesis argues that the overall pattern of use within the case study HEIs contrasts with the tendency toward extreme labour market flexibility that is associated with the most negative impacts for employees. However, as with previous research, some issues and concerns are raised and these are given consideration in relation to numerous existing policy proposals.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 March 2021
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2021 02:24

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