Zero Hours or Zero Cash?

Matthew Taylor’s report on the so called gig economy seems worryingly conservative.

He seems quite happy with zero hours contracts although as I always point out this transfers the onus of success from the swashbuckling capitalist onto the employee, who is rarely entitled to the rewards for success, but seems firmly gripped by the system in the event of any failure. 68% of zero hours staff were apparently happy with the number of hours they worked on a zero hours contract – which means very nearly a third were not – but nobody seems to have enquired if they were happy with the way zero hours contracts work?

For me it would start to concentrate minds better if every zero hours employee had to be paid a retention fee.

Then Taylor says cash jobs such as window cleaning and decorating are worth up to £6bn a year and many were untaxed – something Mr Taylor says should be addressed.

He’s right. It should. By HMRC.

Except of course I forgot, there’s no money to collect the tax and they’re closing offices, axing staff and going on line.

“Most people who do pay for self-employed labour would like to know that that person is paying their taxes.”

I’m sure they would and if so they can simply request a receipt.

And if HMRC were still located in the communities they serve they would be able to run a simple check.

There is a further problem when at least 1.5 million of us do not have bank accounts and some of those that do do not use them. So customers now using cash might not use cards in any case.

Quite often this is so as to avoid ‘offset’ where banks can legitimately snaffle any money that comes into your account if you have had the misfortune to owe them something you haven’t paid. And with increasing private debt that is ever more prevalent. People may lack the courage or the means to open an account in a new bank and may be fearful of who owns what. Can Halifax take money for an unpaid Lloyds’ credit card? Their IT systems are still separate but as they are in the same ownership I wouldn’t risk it.

He then goes on to suggest contracting out this cashless payment control to people like PayPal and Worldpay – so on the one hand an enormous American corporation and on the other an ex subsidiary of RBS. Not exactly confidence boosters are they? If you are in dispute with them as a sole trader I’m willing to bet you’d have wished you’d have taken the cash.

And then many will not have the time or inclination to check bank statements and why should they? I know two people with degrees who, when money is short, often use a jam jar system and so physically cannot afford any more (say discretionary) expenditure when the jam jar is empty without raiding the rent jam jar or the food jam jar. It is very simple to administer and much more difficult to fall into temptation.

Matthew Taylor probably never did clean windows, deliver the papers, or the green-grocery. If he had he too would have found it simpler.

And in any case isn’t this one freedom we should all relish – as a small business not being beholden to a bank or a corporation. Cash will do nicely.


  1. Geoff -

    When we were young and growing up in a traditional working class family in the 1960’s most families we knew has a similar system as the jam jar. In those days we could walk into any neighbours house as the door was always open. It was very common to see several piles of cash on the mantle, one for each of the debt outstanding, including bakers van butchers van and even the rent. We seem to be reclaiming those days when “we’d never had it so good.”

    Regarding zero hours contracts. We know of many retired people who happily work in this system, they are all wealthy enough not to need other forms of employment and cannot see what the problem is. Your post made me wonder what records there are for the various age groups employed in this way.

    1. Peter May -

      I’m not aware of any other surveys other than the one quoted in the report. I doubt there are figures collected for ages of people on zero hours. As I say I hang on to the idea that roughly a third aren’t happy, which is a very significant minority. So they are likely to be working zero hours when they want something else. I’ve employed part timers but I never dreamed of ’employing’ them on zero hours – it strikes me it’s not properly employing people at all!

      1. Geoff -

        I should have qualified my comments by saying I also think they are bad for many if not most people. They are a common feature used by agencies and far to many companies are using agencies to fill their requirements. Some employers use the system to have unofficial black lists, people who fall foul of management, for whatever reason, can find themselves quickly unemployable. I would hope any labour government wold quickly rid the work place of them.

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