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Zero Hour Contracts and more
BAJR had been hearing about the gradual growth of the zero hour contract. - ( explanation here )

Now, per ce there is nothing illegal about them, they allow for flexibility

However, it is clear that zero hour contracts and multiple consecutive fixed term contracts are mainly for the following uses:
  • lasts for a specified time, set in advance
  • ends with the completion of a specified task
  • ends when a specified event does or does not take place
Therefore this is designed for a specific project or task, rather than just a means of keeping people on a month to month contract that can be terminated instantly. Employ for the job.

zero hour also means that if there is no work for you that day, then there is no pay. BUT you must be available to work.

The IfA have fortuitously issued this statement which BAJR wholeheartedly agrees with and will support.

The use of zero hours contracts in archaeological organisations has been highlighted as an area of concern by our Registered Organisations Committee and also falls under the umbrella of general working practice for all our members. Legally the use of this type of contract is unproblematic, but it is important that IfA members and Registered Organisations who are using zero hours contracts are complying with Principle 5 of the Code of conduct. Although IfA has not received any formal complaints against Registered Organisations regarding the use of such contracts, we have followed up specific cases where certain contracts have come to light (such as in job adverts). In these cases, it does appear that the use of such contracts has not undermined either the quality of work or the employment rights of the employee – and in the case of the latter, employees were in fact subject to the same levels of employment benefits, training and induction that core staff received.

However, the issue does remain an area of concern and we are keen that all Registered Organisations and members do ensure that they are aware of their obligations under Principle 5 of the IfA Code of conduct. IfA expects all its Registered Organisations and members to give due regard to employment legislation, welfare of employees in relation to terms and conditions of service, IfA minimum remuneration package and reasonable consideration to cumulative service etc in relation to pay rates and employment benefits - which means contractual terms appropriate to the nature, duration, frequency etc of the work in question.

Should a complaint be made against an organisation or an allegation against a member, it will be investigated in accordance with the provisions of the relevant IfA regulations. We would encourage any archaeologist who feels that they are being unfairly employed by a Registered Organisation to consider making a complaint if they are unable to resolve their concerns with their employer.

More information about how to make a complaint can be found on our website pages ( and Diggers’ Forum Newsletter 5 (Winter 2010) offers a very helpful guide to the procedure and how to begin a complaint ( ). Diggers’ Forum will offer advice and support to its members who wish to discuss making a complaint, but who may wish to remain anonymous and not contact IfA directly in the first instance. A disciplinary procedure also exists to investigate allegations of malpractice against individual members, the process for which can be found on the above link.

Principle 5
The member shall recognise the aspirations of employees,
colleagues and helpers with regard to all matters relating to
employment, including career development, health and safety,
terms and conditions of employment and equality of

These are hard times, but perhaps we should be careful about how far down the line we go, to further erode respect and the duty of care we should have to those who must work to survive and so are likely to accept the harshest of conditions to keep above water.

I stress there is nothing illegal in what is happening, but this places archaeologists in the same boat as migrant farm workers, seasonal shop assistants and contract cleaning staff ... hmmm :face-huh:
That's a dreadful way to treat staff! :0

Has BAJR ever given thought to a register of how units employ staff (in general terms) - employed/self-employed/zero-hour or whatever, permanent/fixed tem/rolling contracts, major fringe benefits like free accom etc? - would give less experienced diggers more of a chance to avoid the outfits that treat them like s**t and might in the long term be another way to improve conditions by people voting with their feet
The fact that this kind of contract is legal really says something about how workers are considered in Britain. Incredible.
Zero hour contracts have been around for 10 years or so outside archaeology. I think there may be some benefit to employees (considering the alternanatves): if a digging team is reaching the end of a project, they will be made redundant, and any future employment for that employer would be as if they were a new starter. In that case it would be beneficial for the employees to remain on the books as 'employees' who would be given any work that became available, rather than just in the pile of applicants.

As with the 'self employment' issue, I think it is unhelpful to issue blanket statements as to their suitability to employer and employee: people may choose to take contracts on this basis, eyes open.
I've known people in the past (actually, thinking about it, including myself) who've hung around units for far too long on the off-chance of work turning up, rather than moving on to 'proper' jobs - it's rarely turned out well.... Rather refreshingly my current employers have always had the unwritten policy of encouraging (or at least not objecting to) even the more valued end of the regular workforce taking definite jobs elsewhere if they come up rather than waiting for our clients to stop p**sing about and come up with signed contracts and start dates, they'd rather people were making a living even if its not for us - sadly I suspect that's quite an unusual stance to take Sad
Good to hear: I think the most corrosive thing about the cyclical nature of project work is the creation of unrealistic expectations of future employment. It's much healthier if everyone is aware that the job lasts as long as the money does, and as in Dino's case the employer hopes to help them into other employment, elsewhere if necessary. The same issue arises with training - Should you train staff who will be leaving? the answer's yes, by the way.
I do hope that people think verey hard before signing up for this sort of contract. There is no point hanging aroung on a promise in such uncertain times. If you are good enough and work comes up again the employer will have no second thoughts about taking you on. In the mean time you can sign on which I presume you cannot do if you are on a zero hours contract. Looks to me like cynical exploitation of people who are desperate to work.
Out of interest, does anyone know whether someone on a 'zero-hour' contract is elligible for Jobseeker's Allowance? I'm guessing no. Presumably they wouldn't show up in unemployment figures either.
Precisely on Tom Wilson's should be possible to claim JSA allowance whilst on a zero-hours contract but it may come down to 'discussing' with the relevant benefits officer as to whether you are really available for work.....

I suspect however that any archaeological employer using a Zero Hour contract is either extremely philanthropic or does not understand employment law. There are many benefits to employees of being on a ZHC. The main advantage is that you can claim continuity of employment for redundancy and other employment benefit reasons, irrespective of whether you are being paid, irrespective of whether you do any work. It would to the advantage of any archaeologist to sign up with as many archaeological employers as possible on such contracts. It doesn't guarantee you work, but you could for example still claim paid holiday, paid sick leave, redundancy payments etc etc. I suspect that what archaeological employers really want to offer in such instances are Casual employment contracts rather than zero-hours contracts, but that of course then offers the worker the chance to turn down work and they are not obligated to take work at short notice.

After one year on ZHC or after a combination of ZHC and full work contracts a worker is entitled to claim unfair dismissal and after 2 years redundancy payments. Employers using such contracts may be under legal obligation to offer any vacant 'fullwork' contracts to their ZHC staff first or possibly be subject to a claim of unfair or unequal treatment of staff. It is also important for workers to realise that for redundancy purposes they are not casual workers and cannot be dismissed as such but have the right to be considered under the same terms and conditions and considerations as other workers who may have more regular employment contracts.

If I were a trade unionist at an archaeological organisation introducing ZHC I would be pushing to establish set procedures and complete transparency as to the obligations on both employers and employees under such contracts.
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
I think the ZHC itself is a red herring, and any issues will stem from how the employer actually goes about assigning work and informing their employees who are on such contracts. For employees, I think the key thing is to have something else they can do in the hours/days they're not working...preferably something that pays! e.g. a ZHC would suit myself admirably (if I were employable as an archaeologist!) as I can work on web dev projects in those hours.

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