Our bar is getting even busier now that the weather is warming up. I want to take on some zero hours staff to fill in where we have staffing gaps, but how can I do this so the agreement is fair, but also effective? 

Zero hours contract do not guarantee any hours will be offered, but that does mean that employers have to accept that they do not have to be accepted when they are available. Whilst this can be a benefit to the employer, by enabling them to meet fluctuating demand, and to some groups of workers, who may not be able to make a commitment to regular work, it can also be controversial and has led to accusations of staff exploitation as there is a failure to offer financial security. 

Whether or not a zero hours contract is appropriate for a business will depend on the nature and needs of that business. For example, it could be that increasing overtime payments or recruiting more fixed term and part time workers would be a less controversial solution. 

The following points should be considered carefully when looking to introduce zero hours contracts: 

•    You must check that the individual understands that there is no guarantee of work, that they will only be paid when they do work, and they can turn down work if they need to, without consequences (this will also help to reinforce the lack of mutuality of obligation and discourage employee status from developing). 

•    Even though they are a worker, those working on these contracts are still entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), or the National Living Wage (NLW), if they are aged 23 or over; the right to paid holidays; and rights under the discrimination legislation, and these rights should be made clear to the worker. 

•    Be clear that they are able to work for others when not working for you. 

•    Those who turn down work should not suffer a detriment for doing so, such as not being asked to work again. 

•    Be fair and transparent with the terms on which the work is offered, and the expectations on individuals undertaking it.

•    Following clarification in Harpur Trust v Brazel, those on zero hours contracts are entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave each year, even where they do not work for every week of that year. Therefore you should carefully consider if a zero hours contract is the best type of contract for the relationship, especially where the work is for a defined duration, or to cover a busy period such as Christmas. In those cases, a fixed term contract may be of more use (and is outside the scope of the Harpur Trust case). 

Due to the nature of the work, the continued need for zero hours staff should be kept under review, as it may become no longer appropriate for your business. 

Further information