This is an exploratory research into both the negative and positive effects that Zero Hour Contracts (ZHC) have on employees and, in turn, what are the reasons that some businesses choose to adopt this practice. The research will be accumulated using a qualitative technique, which will give a more intimate view on the effects that these contracts have as a whole.
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The current labour market in the UK, has been highly influenced by the ZHC that have been defined by HM Revenue and Customs (No date), such as those in which the employer does not guarantee to supply the employee with work and it will be paid to them just for the amount of hours worked, and the employee are not obliged to accept the work offered by the employer. According to Green (2013), this tendency of flexi-work contracts modality has generated divided opinions because of the lack of protection for employees and in some cases the infringement of their quality of life. In the opinion of Davies (2013) retail companies like Abercrombie & Fitch have been hiring most of the staff under ZHC, which does not respond to the need to deal with unpredictable peaks in demand of the company, as some experts have affirmed but has been interpreted by numerous employers as an optimal way to evade paying holidays, sick or redundancy pay. To understand how the management of ZHC in Abercrombie & Fitch London can affect their employees’ conditions, The Office for National Statistics carried out a research report for ZHCs across the UK (2012), which noted that people who are working under ZHC, which are a type of temporary contract, suffer from lower life satisfaction, greater anxiety, and a lower sense of job satisfaction. In addition, the statement given by The New Economic Foundation (2012), which assured that these types of contracts have direct effect on workers wellbeing, could bring major understandings about the connexion between the current form of flexible working contracts in the organisation to investigate, and the circumstances that employees of A&F are facing as a result of it.
Due to the increasing and distorted use of ZHC in private and public sectors, the Green Party has called for the banning of this practice. Bennet (2013), reported that these kinds of contracts put the employees in a delicate and unclear situation in respect of the incomes to be earned each week and at the mercy of managers´ desires. Therefore, it should be evaluated in the case of this investigation, both legal and political implications of the use of ZHC in Abercrombie & Fitch London in order to estimate the different types of contracts that could replace the zero hour contract in the event that the rights of the employees of this company are being violated by the indiscriminate use of this form of recruitment. On the other hand, there is a range of points of view that defend the ZHC. Ehmann (2013), argued that the prohibition of ZHC could affect a countless number of people who have found benefits under this type of contract that gives them the flexibility to mix his work with lifestyle and personal commitments. Similarly, Green (2013) affirmed that Zero-hour contracts can be beneficial for both businesses and workers.
Additionally, Smith (2013), stressed that it costs less to hire staff under ZHC, giving the chance to the employers to hire more people thanks to these contracts and the affordability that comes with them. In contrast, organisations like Resolution Foundation (2013), proclaim that the lack of sureness associated with ZHC and their possible use as a management tool can impact negatively on employees in some ways, like controlling domestic payments such as rent or energy bills, also in terms of family commitments especially for families with young children, the unwillingness of workers to complain about unjust management, to report unsafe working conditions or to assert statutory employment rights because of the employees’ feeling of defencelessness in the workplace. The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Low Pay Commission (2013), announced a group of measures to introduce more fairness into the workforce and in wages for British workers, particularly in terms of ZHC. Four key areas of concern were highlighted such as exclusivity clauses, uncertainty of earnings, transparency and balance of power in the employment relationship. In the particular case of Abercrombie & Fitch, it would be helpful in establishing the kind of role played by each of the four mentioned aspects, to get to know the employees’ understanding about the ZHC to which they are subject. After an evaluation of the mentioned points of view, it can be said that both the government and different organisations have focused their efforts to elucidate the function and use of ZHC. In addition, ZHC provide both benefits and consequences within organisations, all depending on the good management that is given to this type of contract to avoid negative effects for employees. However, there is a lack of studies regarding the retail sector on which this investigation will focus. Abercrombie & Fitch London has a vast number of associates that can bring information about the ZHC and answer the specific question of how the management of this contract can affect them in terms of earnings, lifestyle, social condition and wellbeing.
The overall aim in the study will be to comprehend how these managerial practices could affect in both positive and negative ways the staff´s well-being. The purpose of this qualitative study will be exploring the use of ZHC in the retail sector as a rising practice inside companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch – London. With regard to undertanding the importance of this common procedure, the research will look at the managerial practices concerning the application of ZHC and its regulations inside the organisation. In addition, in order to interpret and understand the employees´ point of view, a visit to the organisation will carried out and one-on-one interviews will be the main source of information, relying to the fullest on the interviewers´ perspectives of the use of ZHC at A&F – London.
•To identify how the management of ZHC in Abercrombie & Fitch – London can affect their employees’ working conditions.
•To establish and understand the role played by ZHC aspects like exclusivity clauses, uncertainty of earnings, transparency and balance of power in the employment relationship, in A&F employees´ life.
• To get to know the employees’ understanding about the ZHC to which they are subject.
•To investigate why the use of ZHC has become the predominant type of employment contract in A&F – London.
A selection of constructivist writers believe that a fundamental principle of this worldview is to give voice to participants and that the incorporation of multiple voices, views and visions of their experiences are essential to the constructivist philosophy to carry out the research (Charmaz, 2006). Likewise, Guba & Lincoln (1985) identify the characteristics that make humans the “instrument of choice” for Naturalistic Inquiry, giving special attention to the researcher when affirming that humans are receptive to environmental hints and capable to interact with the situation; they can provide immediate feedback and request verification of data; and they can explore unusual or unexpected responses. Hence, this research will follow a constructivist view, looking for the understanding and interpretation of the effects of ZHC management in A&F- London in multiples participants, to
generate an understanding that comes from the interaction between the researcher and the employees of Abercrombie & Fitch.
This study will have an inductive approach that is intrinsically connected with the qualitative research as a support to explore and understand the meanings of the data collected from the employees of A&F affected by the use of ZHC in the company with data analysis inductively constructed from general themes (Creswell, 2014). In this respect, Goddard & Melville (2004) affirm that the inductive approach starts with the observations and that theories are formulated towards the end of the research and as a result of observations, which in the case of this study will signify that after collecting the information via interviews of observations to the participants environment, the theories will be generated.
The strategy of this project will be based in the Phenomenological qualitative approach, which in words of Giorgi (2008) has its heart in discovering the essence through the Husserlian Phenomelogical method of imaginative variation in order to discover essential characteristics of the phenomenon being investigated. To discover the real meaning of the managerial effects of zero hours contracts in employees of Abercrombie & Fitch – London, this study will describe the experiences lived by the participants regarding this topic by conducting deep interviews and online groups but keeping philosophical foundations through the process.
The choice of this research will be mono-method since it is using an exclusively qualitative research methodology. A number of features of qualitative research could be mentioned, beginning with the thesis that qualitative research uses the natural setting as the source of data and that the researcher who works in this way tried to explain, understand and observe the situation as they are by keeping emphatic neutrality (Patton, 1990). Evidently, it is important to highlight that qualitative research maintains a way of looking at research that honours an inductive style and gives special attention to the meanings that come out from information given by the participants and to the significance of understanding the complexity of a situation to research (Cresweel, 2014). This choice will be the more appropriate one given that this study will aim to answer questions with the data collected about how and why the use of ZHC can generate negative or positive results for the participants.
5.5 Time horizon
This research will be based on a cross-sectional design that has been described by Hall (2008) as snapshots of the populations about which they gather data. In the case of the face-to-face interviews and in general the data will be collected in one time period contrasting with the longitudinal studies, which involve the study of change over a period of time. According to Weerasekera (No date), cross sectional design is restricted to a specific point in time without taking into account that social characteristics constantly change over time, so using longitudinal research can help to measure those changes. In contrast, other writers suggest that cross-sectional design has a variety of features like the easiness to conduct the research because it does not need long periods of follow up and the data is only collected once; also this design can be used to study and interpret multiple outcomes and exposures from data (Barrat & Kyrman, 2009). In this case, the aforementioned approach matches perfectly with the plan of this study that looks for data collected from a variety of participants with different backgrounds, age, nationality, gender etc, to interpret their information and proceed with the analysis of data and findings over a period of three months.
5.6 Techniques and Procedures
In the words of Given (2008), to say that the researcher is engaged in purposive sampling signifies that sampling is seeing a series of strategy choices about the participants, the place and the way the researcher handles the study by connecting these choices and the samples to the objectives. Therefore, taking in to account that the number of employees of A&F London is around 200, including the associates covering the overnight shifts, this research will use a purposeful sampling strategy to select a total of 20 participants for the interviews. The selection of the participants will be made by looking for cases rich in information, different experiences of the employees than can lead to a major understanding of the issues and a deeper analysis of the cases. The maximum variation sampling according to Hoepfl (1997) could be an appropriate option for this study, since this kind of sampling could bring meticulous descriptions of each case individually and could identify shared patterns in the cases.
5.6.2 Data Collection
Following a Qualitative technique and the statement given by Bogdan & Biklen (1982), the face to face interview with the personnel of A&F London will be used as the primary strategy for data collection, in conjunction with observation of them in the context of their natural scene, which in the case is the workplace. Then to analyse documents available that can bring important information about the current situation of the use of ZHC in the company. Regarding the interviews, Patton (1990) contemplated the open-ended interviews as one of three types of qualitative interviewing, the questions selected for this study ensure a good use of time during the interview and brings flexibility into the interview in terms of modifications to assure a major focus on areas of particular interest. In terms of recording the data and to guarantee that the information given is not lost, a video recorder will be used plus notes made by the researcher. Taking in to account that technology can be used as a tool or bridge between the researcher and the participants, a group on a social media platform will be created to integrate all the participants and bring them the opportunity to share their experiences and beliefs on the subject of ZHC and accumulate more valuable information.
5.6.3 Data Analysis
According to Corbin & Strauss (2008), there is a process of analysis called “open coding” which means that the information has to be classified and named to create descriptive, multi-dimensional categories that form a preliminary framework for analysis.
Therefore, taking in to account the aforementioned statement, the analysis of the data collected by this study will be done by placing the information into coherent and clear categories, looking for patterns in the answers given by the participants during the interviews and the online group. Also, there will be a list of the positive and negative outcomes about the effects of the management of ZHC in Abercrombie & Fitch for the employees, and connecting perspectives to establish affinities and differences in terms of the use of ZHC in A&F London. The next step of analysis of the data in words of Corbin & Strauss (2008), is the “Axial coding” that looks for re-examination of the categories to explore how they are linked, signifying in this case of study that the information placed into groups has to be analysed in detail to find out the interpretation of the information and build the theories or to notice the lack of information and the necessity to collect more data to sustain an accurate and unbiased research.
6.Ethics and access
In order to act in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998, this research will keep in confidentiality the information obtained from the participants and will avoid the revelation of sensitive information. Also, the researcher will inform and ask for permission to the participants about how the information provided in the interviews, social media groups or any other material of research would be used and shared.
Alakeson, V., Cory, G., Pennycook, M. (2013) Resolution Foundation. A matter of time: The rise of zero-hours contracts [Online]. Available from: http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/media/downloads/A_Matter_of_Time_-_The_rise_of_zero-hours_contracts_final_1.pdf Accessed 23 August 2013. [Accessed 3th March 2014]. Barratt, H., Kirwan, M. (2009) Design, Application, Strengths & Weaknesses of Cross-Sectional Studies [Online]. Available from: http://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/research-methods/1a-