In the UK, a zero hours worker is a casual worker engaged on a zero hours contract. A zero hours contract is defined in UK legislation as a contract of employment or other worker’s contract under which a worker undertakes to perform work conditionally on the employer making such work available, but there is no certainty of such work being made available. In essence it is a contract under which the worker is required to be available to work when requested but no minimum amount of work is guaranteed.
Ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts
Following significant media coverage on the use of zero hours contracts and allegations of their abuse by employers, recent legislation (which came into force in May 2015) has banned the use of “exclusivity” clauses in zero hours contracts which do not guarantee a minimum number of hours. This means that any clause in the contract which prohibits the worker from either:
- doing work or performing services under another contract or under any other arrangement; or
- doing work or performing services under another contract or under any other arrangement without the employer’s consent,
will be void and unenforceable.
Protection for zero hours workers
In order to tackle avoidance by employers of the ban on exclusivity clauses, regulations came into force in January this year which provide zero hours workers with a remedy where the contract includes a banned “exclusivity” clause.
The Regulations provide:
- A right for employees working under zero hours contracts not to be unfairly dismissed if the reason, or principal reason, is that the employee has failed to comply with an exclusivity clause.
- A right for workers working under zero hours contracts not to be subjected to any detriment by, or as a result of any act, or deliberate failure to act, done by an employer for the reason that the worker has failed to comply with an exclusivity clause.
The right not to be unfairly dismissed is not subject to the usual two-year qualifying period of employment applicable to most other unfair dismissal claims. Where an employer breaches these rights, the employee may issue a claim in the tribunal and seek a declaration and/or compensation.