Zero Hours Contracts

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Zero hours contracts have recently been in the news because of their ‘unfair’ treatment of employees, but they have been around for a long time.

What Are Zero Hours Contracts?

In general terms, a zero hour contract means that an employer is not obliged to give an employee any work, and the employee is not obliged to take the work.

Of course, through this employee usually does take the work, in fear of not being offered the hours at another point.

Mainly used in the retail and hospitality sectors, zero hours contracts are not so good for either employees or employers. These contracts have been debated a lot over recent years, with trade unions and those in the legal sector regarding them as exploitative, while some employers and businesses are under the impression they offer flexibility to staff.

An individual on this contract still qualifies as a worker and will still be entitled to holiday pay as well as minimum wage but of course, if they are not working any hours, they will not get this.

To avoid being caught in employment tribunals, employers have also had to be extremely careful to make sure their zero hours contracts aren’t indirectly discriminating someone e.g. by race, gender, age.

The Ban

Currently, there is a clause that can appear in work contracts that states the employee must not get a job elsewhere, binding them solely to this employer. Over the last few months, MP Vince Cable has announced that there should be a ban on this clause.

The ban on this type of contract has come at a crucial time, many companies and businesses have previously been abusing the flexibility that zero hour contracts offer, resulting in many unhappy staff, in various sectors and industries. The new employment law will ban exclusivity clauses (tying the employer to the employee) in contracts that don’t guarantee hours of work.

Are There Any Legal Implications Currently?

Employment law rights do not really arise surrounding these contracts because if it says in the contract that both employer and employee has signed, there will be no immediate reason for it to go to an employment tribunal.

However, like with all areas of law, there are certain cases that will end up in an employment tribunal, particularly if the worker has been treated unfairly.

As for how this new law will take shape in the future is unknown, but more will be revealed once the government publish its response to Vince Cable’s demands.

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