Zero Hours, Zero Tolerance?
There has been unease for some time over the use by employers of a “zero hours contract”.
Now, for the first time, employees and workers working under these contracts have some proper redress against employers who try to enforce provisions aimed at prohibiting their zero hour employees or workers from working for other people.
The term “zero hours contract” is used to cover various types of flexible or informal working arrangements. Typically however it refers to a contract where the employer is under no obligation to provide the employee or worker with work.
Contractual provisions that try and prevent zero hours workers from working for others are known as “exclusivity clauses” and, although often included in zero hours contracts, they have been void since 26 May 2015.
Penalising this practice is what the government is now clamping down on: following its consultation exercise in 2015:
– From 11 January 2016 any dismissal of a zero hours employee will be automatically unfair if the principal reason is that he/she breached a clause in their contract prohibiting them from working for another employer. There is no qualifying period of continuous employment required before such a claim can be brought.
– Likewise, it is also unlawful to submit a zero hours’ worker (so not just an employee) to a detriment if they breach an exclusivity clause and work for another employer.
Click here for a link to The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015.
The new regulations are consistent with the government’s stated positon that zero hours contracts in themselves are not an issue, as they can serve a very useful and proper purpose in allowing flexibility where it is needed for both employers and individuals.
However, “they should not be considered as an alternative to proper business planning and should not be used as a permanent arrangement if it is not justifiable“.
Employers who use zero hours contracts should check their contracts and remove any exclusivity provisions in order to avoid the suggestion that any termination of employment or treatment of workers that could be might be viewed as detrimental is in some way connected to an attempt to enforce an exclusivity clause.