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What is a Zero Hours Contract?

What is a Zero Hours Contract?

If you have been paying attention to the news lately then you will probably have come across the term “zero hours contract”. This modern type of employment has courted rather a lot of controversy over the past few months, but what is it and does it really warrant such a notorious reputation?

Currently there is no legal definition of a zero-hours contract but it is essentially a contract which does not guarantee the employee any work, and the employee is not obliged to accept any that is offered.

So what is the point of it?

There are many advantages to using a zero hours contract. For the employer it means that they can have a large number of staff whom they can call if they need extra help. This might be if there is going to be a big order that needs organising one week, or if there are suddenly several sick workers at once. Another example might be a catering company who receive an unexpected request to cater for a large event at short notice. Rather than rejecting business, zero-hours contracts enable employers to find suitable employees immediately.

Employers who are expanding their business might choose to hire using zero-hour contracts as a type of safety measure. If the company does not expand at the rate predicted, there are no redundancies needed and nobody’s time has been wasted.

There are many advantages for the employee as well.

Zero hour contracts particularly appeal to students and individuals who are semi-retired. The flexibility offered by this type of contract means that people who are not available for a regular 9-5 job can still gain some income now and then. A zero-hour contract is often considered a gateway to the labour market for students who can tell future prospective employers that they held down a job while studying.

Although there is no doubt that lots of the people are satisfied with this type of contract, there are many critics of them as well.

Various unions and campaigners have pushed for zero-hour contracts to be banned, arguing that they are unfair because they enable employers to exploit people who are desperate for work.

Generally people on these contracts are entitled to the same rights as regular workers including annual leave, National Minimum Wage, and travel expenses. However, many employees have complained that they are not given enough notice of when they can work and this leads to missed opportunities. Some employees have stated that when they have had to turn down work they were not contacted again.

To try to tackle this issue, the government have announced that employers can no longer tell employees on zero-hour contracts that they cannot work elsewhere. However, this will not prevent employers from ignoring employees who have previously turned down additional work because of other work commitments though.

If you think that you might have been employed or treated unfairly, or if you are thinking about using a new type of contract for employees and want to make sure that you are doing it legally, contact Lanshaws. Our experienced solicitors can advise you on where you stand and what actions you should take.