Workers On Zero Hours Contracts Get More Rights

Experts Say New Legislation Will Increase ‘Minimum Hours Contracts’

11.01.2016

Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

As new rules regarding exclusivity clauses in ‘zero-hours contracts’ come into force today, employment law experts are predicting businesses will adapt to the change by using more ‘minimum hours contracts.’

Zero-hours contracts are used by many employers to hire staff without giving them any guarantee of work, giving the employer the flexibility to respond to changing market conditions and different levels of demand.

Since May last year employers who use zero-hours contracts have no longer been able to enforce exclusivity clauses which prevent staff from working for other organisations. 

Today new rules come into effect which give those on zero hours contracts who refuse to comply with an exclusivity clause protection against unfair dismissal and detrimental treatment. 

Employees pursuing a claim for unfair dismissal on these grounds will not need to show that they have the normal two year qualifying period of employment.

At present it is estimated that around 1.4 million workers in the UK are currently working on zero-hours contracts, mostly within the hospitality, retail and manufacturing industries. 

Employment law expert and Partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, Kirsty Ayre, said the change in legislation is unlikely to have a significant impact.

It may however mean businesses think twice in the future before using zero-hours contracts and instead look to use  ‘Minimum Hour’ style agreements, which fall outside of the protection of the new rules.

Expert Opinion
Those working under zero hours contracts are widely considered to be a vulnerable group requiring protection. These Regulations offer limited protection but in the view of many do not go far enough.

They do not prevent the use of zero hours contracts but offer a remedy to those who are dismissed or suffer a detriment because they have worked for someone else in breach of an exclusivity clause.

The new rules will be of little if any benefit to many on zero-hours contracts who are trapped in low paid and insecure employment.

It is possible that employers worried about the new law will look to get round it by offering their staff a minimum number of hours per week (which could be as little as just a few hours) to take their contracts outside the scope of the rules.
Kirsty Ayre, Partner