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Zero hours workers

  • Zero hours contracts do not have a specific definition in law - contracts  referred to as "zero hours contracts" may differ from one organisation to another.  
  • Zero hours staff may be engaged as employees or workers. A zero hours worker's employment status will depend on what the contract says and how the arrangement operates in practice (i.e. whether the legal tests of employment are met).
  • Employment status is important because it determines an individual's legal rights and an employer's obligations towards that individual.
  • Employers should decide how the relationship will operate in practice, apply the corresponding employment status and accurately reflect this in the contract.
  • Contracts should specify the employment status, rights and obligations of zero hours staff and confirm basic terms, including pay, holiday entitlements, notice and other terms which relate to the way work will be managed.
  • Employers should regularly review working arrangements to assess whether the way in which individuals are working has implications for their employment status. If their status has changed, the employer should consider issuing a new contract to reflect this.
  • Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts, used to tie workers into working for only one employer even when no work is offered, became unenforceable in May 2015. Zero hours employees have the right not to be unfairly dismissed and zero hours workers have the right not to suffer detrimental treatment for working elsewhere.

Recent developments

Private Member's Bill seeks to eliminate zero hours contracts

The Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill 2017-19 seeks to limit the use of zero hours contracts by specifying these contracts may only be used where there is a specific agreement in place with a trade union. The Private Member's Bill, sponsored by Mr Chris Stephens MP for Glasgow South West, will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 19 January 2018.