More staff at McDonald's in the UK will be given the chance to come off controversial zero-hours contracts after the chief executive revealed a recent trial would be rolled out to more restaurants.
Paul Pomroy admitted that a "small but growing" number of workers have been asking for contracts with a set number of guaranteed hours each week to help them take out car loans and mobile phone contracts.
The chain has been criticised previously for being one of the biggest users of the contracts, which are given to the vast majority of its staff and can see workers' shift patterns swing wildly without a guaranteed salary each month.
Previous chief executive Jill McDonald had insisted the contracts did not need changing, but Pomroy agreed to introduce a trial for all 246 staff at three restaurants in Merseyside.
Now six more restaurants across the country – including branches in London and the East Midlands – will offer set contracts to workers, to help bosses gauge how well the chain can cope during the busy summer holiday period.
The company wants to test different areas where there is an increase typically in seasonal visitors, and also in student towns where workers are likely to be keener on the flexibility of a zero-hours contract.
Pomroy said 17% of staff at the three trial sites took up the option of fixed hours – with contracts ranging from a minimum of four hours a week, to 16 or 30 hours.
However, he pointed out that most still chose to stick with the zero-hours contracts, pointing out that "students and working mums and dads value the flexibility we provide for study and childcare".
"Over time people’s needs change and the financial landscape has changed," he said. "We listen to our people and a small but growing number of employees tell us that fixed hours would help them get better access to financial contracts such as a car loan or for a mobile phone."
The new trial will be reviewed in the autumn and, if successful, could be rolled out across the UK.
McDonald's is one of the only businesses in the UK to publicly declare it will stop offering only zero-hours contracts to the majority of its staff, since the topic rose up the political agenda.
Sports Direct has faced heavy criticism for its continued use of the contracts, and is the subject of a parliamentary inquiry over alleged worker abuses, with politicians summoning its founder Mike Ashley to appear before them.
McDonald's added that it has invested £40 million in worker training and said it now pays the vast majority of staff over 21 at least £7 an hour – while 16- to 18-year-old workers also received a 14% pay rise.
Simon Neville is business editor at BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.
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