Now it seems that Government is actually going to do something about zero hours contracts by launching draft legislation – the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill. The bill does not just cover zero hours contracts, but the part that does mainly aims to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in such contracts.
Exclusivity clauses are where employers restrict workers on zero hours contracts from being able to take work elsewhere, even though the employer does not guarantee any hours of work. The Government estimates that 125,000 workers in the UK are on zero hours contracts containing exclusivity clauses.
It is not clear how the ban on exclusivity clauses would work in practice, or whether employers may be able to get around the new law by (for example) offering exclusive short-term contracts of a week instead.
The draft bill also includes provision to allow the Secretary of State to impose financial penalties on employers, require employers to pay compensation to zero-hours workers, and confer jurisdiction on Employment Tribunals to hear claims from zero hours workers.
This has been coming for some time, and has also been a surprising media storm, so the draft bill is no surprise. We will keep you updated on any changes as the bill progresses through parliament.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).