Three Merseyside MPs have today launched an investigation into the impact of zero-hour contracts.

The controversial contracts are used by employers so that employees’ hours of work are not guaranteed.

The three MPs - including Wirral South's Alison McGovern - are concerned this practice can cause huge difficulties for employees.

A statement from the three says many see hours of work cancelled at the last minute, or are forced to work longer hours which impact on childcare arrangements.

Fluctuating hours can cause problems for people claiming Tax Credits, often resulting in huge overpayments which need to be repaid to the taxman.

The MPs are launching the investigation to find out people’s experiences.

They hope to use the results to highlight the range and scale of the problem to Government and to develop a code of practice for responsible companies to sign up to.

Ms McGovern said: “I am from Merseyside, and recall my grandparents telling me about the damage done by casual working practices many years ago – including in dock areas like ours.

"Campaigners then rightly stood up for security in employment, and against the fear created by the worst cases of employment practice.

"Therefore, while some will choose the flexibility offered by certain contracts, can we also assist people who would rather have more permanent, stable employment?”

George Howarth, Labour MP for Knowsley North and Sefton East, said: “Currently, many well-known companies – mainly though not exclusively through agencies – are employing people on either zero hour, casual or short-term contracts in order to evade employment rights.

"In November last year, the Office of National Statistics stated that under-employment had risen by 47% – one million extra people- since 2008, with young people and low paid workers more likely to be affected than other workers.

"People want to work but zero hour contracts can be exploitative.”

Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, said she has had first-hand experience of being employed on a zero-hour contract: "I know that while they can offer flexibility to some, for others they can cause huge challenges.

"We know that one-in-ten workers in the UK is now officially under-employed and as MPs we see countless constituents who have experienced problems because they are trapped on zero-hour contracts.

"I have met with several constituents who owe large amounts to HMRC because fluctuating hours have meant their Tax Credits were incorrectly estimated.”

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