Zero-hours contracts, unless freely requested by the employee, create not just poverty but misery. They should be outlawed, and I’m backing an organisation created to do just that.

Retail Week recently ran a piece on workforce flexibility, which to me mixed up zero-hours and the gig economy. They’re two different things.

The gig economy, in theory anyway, is made up of people freely offering their services to businesses. But people on enforced zero-hours contracts have a direct relationship with an employer and therefore little choice, and that’s why it’s such a bad working arrangement.

I hear it said that people on zero-hours like the flexibility. Maybe that’s sometimes the case for students or people with wealthy parents or a private income who can subsidise their lifestyles.

“The reality is the great majority of those on zero-hours contracts absolutely loathe them, because they’re unilaterally imposed on them”

But it’s not the case for most of those on the receiving end of zero-hours, who have to endure the uncertainty they bring. Can you imagine on a daily basis not knowing if you’ll have enough money for food or rent?

The reality is the great majority of those on zero-hours contracts absolutely loathe them because they’re unilaterally imposed on them. There are three examples I often use to show the vicious impacts.

First, housing. Where are people on zero-hours going to live when there are great swathes of the country with no access to social housing? Even decent private-sector landlords are reluctant to rent to people on zero-hours, who typically don’t have the same access as others to loans and mortgages. Feeling insecure about something as basic as where you live takes a terrible toll in stress and worry.

Second, there are more women than men on zero-hours contracts. I’ve heard dreadful stories about desperate women seeking more hours from abusive bosses who ask them: ’What are you going to do for me, love?’ The power differential between employer and employee here is enormous.

Third, many of those on zero-hours are often working parents juggling their lives. They’ll arrange childcare and go into work, and the next thing they know they’re being sent home because ‘it’s quiet today’. And problems like the sadistic sanctions imposed through Universal Credit mean zero-hours workers often don’t get access to the benefits they’re entitled to. And should they quit their job they wouldn’t be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The UK when still part of the EU was, as far as we know, one of only six countries in the bloc to tolerate zero-hours contracts. The others, quite rightly, will have nothing to do with them.

It should be the same here, which is why I’m the founder and funder of Zero Hours Justice, also supported by the TUC. We aim to end the imposition of zero-hours contracts and will attempt strategic litigation in pursuit of reform.

“The overriding lesson is that business success is all about people. Very early on, I learned that if I treated people well I’d get a better output from them”

I’ve been in business for 40 years as founder of Richer Sounds, and I’ve learned a lot over that time. The overriding lesson is that business success is all about people. Very early on, I learned that if I treated people well I’d get better output from them.

That might sound terrible and exploitative and mercenary, but, as well as being the right thing to do, it’s enabled my business to thrive.

For a lot of retailers, it is a bloodbath out there at the moment. Companies have closed down. Online has taken sales away from bricks-and-mortar stores. But we’re doing well. We’ve had successful year on successful year, and I think that proves treating people well is a huge part of that.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. Back in 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published the book In Search of Excellence. They analysed the most successful companies in the US, and the only commonality they found was that those businesses treated their customers well and treated their staff well.

Rest assured, my colleagues wouldn’t treat the customers well if they weren’t well treated themselves. It is nothing new, but what amazes me is that far more businesses don’t do it.

Ending zero-hours wouldn’t just be good for the people affected. I believe it would also be good for business and good for our society.