- The Government has published the measures it intends to take to prevent the perceived abuse of zero-hours contracts. A zero hours contract provides for casual work under which the employer doesn’t have to provide any work to the worker and therefore no pay is given on the dates on which no work is provided or undertaken by the worker.
- Over the years, there has been a rise in the use of zero-hours contracts as they have been seen as a useful tool for employers to meet fluctuating business demands. Historically, such contracts often included “exclusivity clauses” which ensured that the worker was available for work when required by the employer but, unfortunately for the worker, prevented them from working for others even at times when there is no work offered by their employer.
- In the past few years zero-hours contracts have come under criticism from critics who claim that they are leaving workers open to exploitation. Due to the criticism, a Bill has been published which sees the ban of the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts coming into force. This does not, however, mean that zero hour contracts will be banned completely and can still be issued by employers.”
- In June 2014, the Government announced that it would consult on measures to tackle any attempted avoidance of the proposed exclusivity ban within zero-hours contracts. The Government’s consultation ended in November 2014, and the Government’s response has now been published.
- New legislation is intended to protect zero-hours workers (and will also be extended to low income workers) from suffering a detriment on the grounds that they have done work, or performed services under another contract for another employer “thereby banning exclusivity”. If a worker suffers detriment they will be able to take the employer to an Employment Tribunal and seek a compensation award.
- Under the new legislation, it is also expected that the employer will also potentially face civil penalties under the Employment Tribunal Act 1996 if they breach workers’ rights or if the employer seeks to avoid the exclusivity ban.
- Notably, recently the Labour party announced that it would outlaw the majority of zero-hour contracts if it formed the next Government following the General Election on 7 May. Ed Miliband said he would give workers on zero hour contracts the right to a regular contract within 12 weeks of employment.
Further information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/zero-hours-employment-contracts-exclusivity-clause-ban-avoidance