Reforms to zero hour contracts

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Reforms to zero hour contracts

Related tags: Zero-hours contracts, Employment, Government

Sometimes it can be a challenge to plan ahead and predict the number of staff you will require for the weeks ahead, often resulting in being understaffed because you cannot get anyone at short notice or overstaffed and paying an employee who is not required.

This could be the case because you are covering staff who are booked on annual leave or have unexpected sickness, or it could just be that you have taken a last-minute booking for a large function.

For these reasons, zero-hours contracts are being increasingly used in the leisure industry to employ people such as bar staff or cleaners, for example.

However, it is important that if you employ your staff on this type of contract you are aware of your obligations, your employees’ rights and the potential changes to the legislation which could be on the horizon.

Here are the main points to remember if you are considering using zero-hours contracts:

  • Employing a member of staff on this type of contract is advantageous because you are not required to employ them to work a set number of hours and so do not need to guarantee them work
  • The employee is therefore effectively entering into a contract so that they are ‘on call’ to work for you at a time they are required and not specific shifts
  • This can be a more cost-effective method of having staff to cover than through an agency and can certainly be easier if they are required at short notice
  • Employees on this type of contract are still entitled to the same employment rights as other workers (although those rights, which accrue over time, may be affected by breaks in contracts)
  • The employees are therefore still entitled to be paid the national minimum wage and to receive annual leave

However, as you will have probably seen in the press, there have been concerns raised over the use of zero-hours contracts both from the perspective of the employer and the employee so it is important if you are using, or considering using, this type of contract that you ensure you keep up to date with any potential changes.

Reassuringly, it does not seem the Government’s intention is to abolish zero-hours contracts altogether but to introduce further measures to protect both parties. Possible areas for reform are:

  • To ban the use of exclusivity clauses in contracts that do not guarantee work (currently clauses can be included to prevent an employee working for any other employer even if they do not get any work)
  • Providing model clauses for employers to use in this type of contract
  • To produce a code of practice covering the fair use of this type of contract

The Zero-Hours Contract Bill is due its second reading on Friday, 27 February, so keep an eye out for any further updates because more will be known about the proposed reforms after this date.

Related topics: Licensing law

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1 comment

reforms to zero contracts

Posted by Hazel Bullock,

I personally believe zero contracts benefit the employers in the main. I think the least an employer should offer is a Minimum Contract of say a guaranteed 4hrs a week. I worked for many years at Asda on a four and a half hour contract that suited my busy family life and ensured a regular guaranteed wage
each month, where I increased my hours as my children got older. I have also been on the other side... Where I was not given a contract for a job where the hours were very irregular and long spells of no work being offered. Also the shifts could vary from 2 to 3 hrs across South Tyneside area meaning I had to pay my bus fayres out of my short shifts of low pay. Therefore I would only be able to earn twelve pounds for a morning out at work! I did not realise all the disadvantages I only saw the job that I wished to do. I did not see any benefit of being available at short notice for minimum hours and minimum pay with no prospect of ever earning a descent regular wage, no security AT ALL ! I personally think zero contracts should be abolished and should never of been allowed. It is also unfair on children within education whom should have consistent care and education. Hazel

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