Are you on a zero-hours contract?

21 May

Advice and information for further & higher education staff and others

What are ‘zero-hours contracts’?

The term ‘zero-hours’ is not defined in legislation, but is generally understood to be a employment contract between an employer and a worker, which means the employer is not obliged to provide the worker with any minimum working hours, and the worker is not obliged to accept any of the hours offered.

It is important that both the employer and worker are aware of the fact that a zero-hours contract can make their relationship different to other employment contract arrangements.

When are zero-hours contracts used?

Zero-hours’ contracts can be used to provide a flexible workforce to meet a temporary or changeable need for staff. Examples may include a need for workers to cover:

  • unexpected or last-minute events (e.g. a restaurant needs extra staff to cater for a wedding party that just had their original venue cancel on them);
  • temporary staff shortages (e.g. an office loses an essential specialist worker for a few weeks due to bereavement);
  • on-call/bank work (e.g. one of the clients of a care-worker company requires extra care for a short period of time).

It is important for employers to actively monitor their need for zero-hours contracts. In many cases, it may be more effective or appropriate to make use of agency workers, or recruit staff on fixed-term contracts – or it may turn out that the need is permanent and therefore a permanent member of staff can be recruited.

Key points:

  • Zero-hours contracts normally mean there is no obligation for employers to offer work, or for workers to accept it.
  • Most zero-hours contracts will give staff ‘workers’ employment status.
  • Zero-hours workers have the same employment rights as regular workers, although they may have breaks in their contracts, which affect rights that accrue over time.
  • Zero-hours workers are entitled to annual leave, the National Minimum Wage and pay for work-related travel in the same way as regular workers.

Further information

In many cases, contracts are inevitably specific to an individual and the particular terms and conditions being proposed are within a given context.

Therefore Voice members who have a contractual concern of any nature should contact Voice’s HQ Legal Team.

3 November 2014

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