Controlling zero-hours contracts | Howells Solicitors

Controlling zero-hours contracts

The use of zero-hour contracts remains a hot topic. The government have been looking at ways to control the use of zero-hour contracts and has been consulting on their proposals for some time now.

Much has been made about how companies using zero-hour contracts are exploiting their workers and there have been legal challenges made against certain employers that frequently use these types of contracts. If used properly however, zero-hour contracts can be advantageous to both employers and employees.

Government is concerned about the possible exploitation of workers on these contracts and wants to ensure that zero-hours contracts are used fairly. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which is currently passing through Parliament will make any exclusivity clause in a zero-hour contract unenforceable. An exclusivity clause is one which prevents the worker from taking on similar jobs at other companies, tying the employee to that employer. This is where there is the realistic prospect of the employee being exploited, for example an employee might refuse a shift for a valid reason and then not be offered any further shifts, but be unable to take on work with another employer either.

In order to ensure that this ban on exclusivity clauses is enforced, the Government have consulted about anti-avoidance measures. One measure proposed is to give employees working on zero-hour contracts protection from detriment in circumstances where they take jobs under other contracts – giving them the right to seek compensation, and the Tribunal the right to impose civil penalties on the employer where any detriment has occurred. Protection from exclusivity clauses will extend to all employees on zero-hour contracts or other ‘prescribed contracts’ where there is no specified minimum level of income (except where the employee is paid more than £20 per hour). Whether a contract will be a ‘prescribed contract’ will depend on an hours worked and income based threshold.

The final amendments are currently being considered in Parliament and the final Regulations are expected to be issued later this year.

If you need help with zero-hour contracts please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Tom Bernard
Howells Employment Solicitor

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