Introduction – What is a Zero Hours Contract?
A zero hours contract is a contract where the business or the employer is under no obligation to provide work to a worker or employee at anytime, and the worker or employee is equally under no obligation to accept work offered by the business/employer at anytime.
Some figures suggest as many as 1.8 million people in the UK work under such terms, and businesses such as Weatherspoons to the Royal Family itself are said to use such contracts.
Further controversy arises with such contracts if there is an “exclusivity clause”. This is a clause which prevents the worker/employee working for somebody else, even though he or she is not guaranteed any hours of work at all. Such clauses are not necessarily unlawful, and a recent survey suggested that around 9% of individuals on zero hours contracts are never allowed to work for another employer even though the primary employer has no work available for them.
The Government’s Position
The Conservative Party believes that zero hours contracts have been good for the economy, and the flexibility they provide has helped businesses during recent difficult times. However the Government does accept that it is unfair to have “exclusivity clauses” in such contracts when work is not guaranteed as individuals who have not been offered any work are prevented from looking for work elsewhere in order to boost their income.
The Position of the Labour Party
After David Cameron’s recent admission that he could not live off a zero hours contract, Ed Milliband has stated that he would ban zero hours contracts.
Under Labour it is proposed that such contracts could only last up to three months, and thereafter the individual or employee shall be put on a “regular hours” contract. Clearly the Labour party believe that working people should get greater protection in their endeavours to earn an income. However some experts suggest that employers will terminate an individual’s employment just before the three month period is reached in order to avoid the “regular hours” contract and that these plans will reduce the flexibility that has helped businesses in the recent poor economic conditions.
What do you need to do?
Quite simply if you employ any staff on zero hours contracts or are intending to do so, then you must wait until after the General Election in May in order to see who wins and which way the law will go. Whoever wins there will be some changes to the current law which are necessary as the current zero hours contracts system is unfortunately open to much abuse.
If you need advice on zero hours contracts, either as an employer or as a worker/employee then please contract Daven Naghen head of our employment team. Daven can be contacted no 01775 72261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us or arrange an appointment at our offices at 23 New Road Spalding Lincolnshire PE11 1 DH.