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Pay a premium rate for short-notice work, suggests Government

Fruit pickers are among those often employed on zero-hour contracts Credit: PA

Companies could be forced to pay a premium rate for short-notice work, the Government's employment practice adviser has suggested.

Matthew Taylor, who is leading a review into labour rights, said employers would be incentivised to guarantee work in advance if they were made to pay more for every "non-guaranteed" hour.

In an interview with the Financial Times, he claimed that a higher rate on zero-hours contracts could stop "lazy" employers from offloading risks onto workers, and stop them demanding "one-sided flexibility".

He said: "The problem in the labour market is not security of work, it's security of income.

"We've been hearing today about people in the social care sector who are told 'be ready to leave the house at seven in the morning,' then a phone call (comes to say): 'No, we haven't any work for you today'."

Mr Taylor, who was an adviser to Tony Blair and is chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, told the paper that the idea was still "up for debate", and that he did not want a "proliferation of different minimum wages".

"I think we can encourage employers to be a bit less lazy about transferring risk. Even if it means (an employer) offers 15 hours a week rather than one hour, at least that's 15 hours that I can know I'm going to be able to pay my mortgage."

Sports Direct warehouse where firm said it would ditch zero-hours contracts Credit: PA

The number of people employed on zero-hours contracts has grown by 101,000 over the past year - and now represents 2.8% of all people in employment, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Trade unions say zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) are exploitative for workers who are left with no certainly over their earnings and can be called in to work at any time while also being denied the right to sick pay or holiday time.

Mr Taylor, who was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May last year to lead the review on modern employment practices, said last year that he hopes to "promote a national conversation and explore how we can all contribute to work that provides opportunity, fairness and dignity".

The review will "consider the implications of new forms of work on worker rights and responsibilities - as well as on employer freedoms and obligations".