Flexibility at breaking point, a ban on exclusive zero hours contracts.

Anna Moyle

The government is set to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

Do you have strong views about zero hours contracts?  A lot of people do. The government launched a consultation on their use (or misuse) in December 2013. By the time that consultation closed in March 2014, it had received over a record breaking 36,000 responses.

Zero hours contracts are contracts under which an employer does not guarantee to provide any work and only pays the worker for work carried out. Research conducted by CIPD found that 16% of zero hours workers felt that their employer frequently did not provide them with enough work.

Whilst zero hours contracts have been the subject of negative comments, the government made it clear from the outset that they were not looking to ban their use entirely. Vince Cable has said “Zero hours contracts have a place in today’s labour market, they offer valuable flexible working opportunities for students, older people and other people looking to top up their income and find work that suits their personal circumstances“.

However, the government has now announced that it will use the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to crack down on those “unscrupulous employers [who] abuse the flexibility that these contracts offer to the detriment of their workers“.

The Bill will ban the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts. This should please the 83% of respondents to the consultation who recommended the government do just that.

The Government’s aim is to make it impossible for employers to say: “Although we may not give you work, you still can’t work for anyone else without our permission” and stop workers on zero hours contracts from working for other employers, or from doing so only with their employer’s consent. This will apply to all existing and new zero hours contracts.

In addition, the government will work with business representatives and unions to develop a code of practice by the end of 2014 on the fair use of zero hours contracts. A further consultation will focus on how to best prevent rogue employers evade the exclusivity ban by, for example, offering one-hour fixed-term contracts, and the issue of redress should this law be broken.

The Bill was presented to parliament on 25 June 2014. It is now being scrutinised by the Public Bill Committee, who are expected to report back by 6 November 2014. If you would like to read the bill, which contains the first legislative attempt to define a zero hours contract, click here:-

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2014-2015/0011/15011.pdf

If you are one of the 83% who pushed for the proposed change or simply an “unscrupulous employer” who wants full rein to take advantage of a flexible labour market, then you can submit your views to the Commons Public Bill Committee.