It turns out that the latest statistics show a drop in employers using ‘zero-hours contracts’. At least that’s what the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found, but apparently the total number of such contracts has remained the same.
With these statistics, and with all the furor and the publicity, it is worth reminding ourselves what is and is not allowed with zero-hours contracts. This is not an exhaustive summary of the topic, but just a summary of the main issues.
First, until 26 May 2015 the term zero-hours contract was purely colloquial. However, following their controversial use by certain companies, legislation was enacted with the purpose of outlawing ‘exclusivity clauses’ in zero-hours contracts.
- For this purpose, they were defined as contracts of employment or other workers’ contracts, in which the promise to work is conditional on work being provided, and the employer doesn’t guarantee that work will be provided.
- Under such a contract, any clause banning work for another business, i.e. an exclusivity clause, is unenforceable.
- Furthermore, any clause providing that the employee needs consent in order to work for another business is unenforceable.
- And if a worker is dismissed or faces other detriment due to not abiding by an exclusivity clause, the employer may face a claim at an employment tribunal.
In other words, using zero-hours contracts is not unlawful, but if you do use such clauses, you can’t expect your workers not to work elsewhere also if they wish.
And what do the statistics referred to above show? The Resolution Foundation, a think tank, has attributed the findings to the negative publicity surrounding zero hours contracts as well as the high employment rate which means that workers have to be given rights to attract the best.
That last point is worth bearing in mind – although regulations can sometimes be seen as the enemy for businesses, irrespective of the regulations you do want to attract the best and you want to motivate them by treating them well and giving them autonomy where possible.
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