Zero Hours Contract

Recent studies show that quite a diverse range of employers are using such contracts, including fast food restaurants, sports retailers and even, as one study revealed, Buckingham Palace.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics suggest that there could be in the region of 250,000 (and potentially, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, as many as one million) people in the UK employed under zero-hours contracts.

Consequently, in recent weeks, these types of employment contract have attracted some media scrutiny and debate.

Zero-hour contracts satisfy the requirements of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and legally give rise to written statements of terms and conditions, but they don’t guarantee workers any hours or times of work. They do not oblige employers to provide work for employees. What they do, essentially, is create a resource for employers to use to meet their short-term staffing needs and a pool of people who are “on-call” and available for employers to use as and when the need arises.

Employees under zero-hours contracts are paid only for hours that they actually work. There is often no pattern or consistency. This can frequently make it difficult for employees to manage their financial commitments (such as mortgage repayments, rent payments, utility and rising living costs) because of the unpredictable nature of their work.

On the other hand, supporters of these types of contract take the view that they offer a flexible way to generate occasional earnings and a freedom of choice of working pattern.

But whatever the view, one cause for concern is the suggestion that these types of contract are being used by employers as a convenient way to evade liability for sickness and holiday pay. Many people employed under a zero-hours contract will not receive any holiday pay, despite the entitlement to paid annual leave being a right that each employee has which is enshrined in UK employment law, and a large proportion will not be paid sick pay, contrary to the protection afforded to employees under UK law.

The Government has committed to undertake a review of zero-hours contracts which is due by the end of the year, and as a result the debate is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

If you are experiencing any issues connected to your employment contract, or if you have any employment law queries generally, contact our employment team here at Gardner Croft.