McDonald’s Introduces Fixed-Hours Contracts for UK-based Staff

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. optional / ˈɒp ʃə nl / (adj) – given as a choice, but not required

    Attendance to the company event is optional.

  2. erratic / ɪˈræt ɪk / (adj) – not stable

    The employee’s erratic behavior concerned his coworkers.

  3. flexible / ˈflɛk sə bəl / (adj) – can adjust to different conditions

    Most companies have flexible work hours.

  4. range from / reɪndʒ frʌm, frɒm / (phrasal) – to vary within a certain scope

    Scores range from 90 to 100.

  5. insecure / ˌɪn sɪˈkyʊər / (adj) – unsafe; exposed to the risk of loss

    He made an insecure investment.


Read the text below.

McDonald’s has introduced a “fixed-hours contract” for its UK-based staff.

Out of over 115,000 employees in the UK, around 80,000 workers of the multinational fast-food chain are hired on a “zero-hour contract” – an agreement that does not require employers to provide fixed working hours to workers. Likewise, accepting any work from employers is optional. This arrangement has received criticism because employers can assign erratic working hours to workers and make sudden changes in shift schedules. The company decided to offer fixed-hours contracts to address the staff’s complaints about their ineligibility for benefits such as loans, mobile phone contracts, and mortgages due to their unstable employment.

McDonald’s tested the fixed-hours agreement in 23 sites in the UK. In St. Helens, Meyerside, 80% of the staff stayed on zero-hour contracts, while 20% moved to fixed-hours contracts. According to McDonald’s UK CEO, Paul Pomroy, the 80% figure indicates satisfaction with the flexible agreement, while the 20% figure is comprised of workers who want to have improved access to financial benefits.

The company introduced different fixed-hours contracts, ranging from four to 35 hours a week. Although it has not been confirmed, a 40-hour contract is in talks.

The Trade Union Congress predicts that around 3.5 million workers in the UK could face insecure employment, which includes being bound by zero-hour contracts, by 2022. Businesses such as retailers, hotels, restaurants, and recreation centers are known for using zero-hour contracts. Recent data from the Office of National Statistics reveals that over 900,000 workers were hired on zero-hour contracts from October to December in 2016.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Aside from unstable employment, what difficulties can zero-hour contract workers encounter?
• Aside from having a fixed-hours contract, how else can employment be made more secure?

Discussion B

• What difficulties do employers encounter when hiring employees?
• In what ways can companies benefit from offering employees fixed-hours contracts?