The government has just set out its proposed plan of action to ban exclusivity in zero hours contracts in the face of increasing pressure to address alleged abuses. Exclusivity clauses allow a worker to work for only one employer and given the no obligation nature of a zero hours contract this is just not fair and reasonable.
The government will also consult further on how to prevent rogue employers evading the exclusivity ban. It will also be working with employers and unions to develop a code of practice on the fair use of zero hours contracts which will be available by the end of 2104 as well as developing improved guidance on workers employment rights.
Labour is also proposing some introductions, should it come to power, which include:
– no obligation to be available outside contracted hours;
– a ban on exclusivity;
– a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice;
– transparency over their employment status, terms and conditions;
– the right to request a contract with a “minimum amount of work” after six months with an employer – this could only be refused if employers could prove their business could not operate any other way;
– an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with an employer.
In my experience with zero hours contracts few employers use exclusivity clauses in them so all this seems to me to be a storm in a teacup.
In the meantime, attention is focused on the wording of the ban in the Bill announced on the 25 June. The challenge is on for how the Government will construct a legislative approach that works. There is no tried and tested statutory definition of a zero hour contract so the potential danger is that any new wording could inadvertently impact on other forms of employment where exclusivity is currently lawful and common practice.
Research suggests that some of the bad practices associated with zero hours contracts flow from a general lack of understanding, amongst both workers and employers, about their nature including employment status and entitlements. The Government hopes to address this knowledge gap by making new information and guidance on zero hours contracts widely available together with a new code of practice.
Employers should anticipate increased interest in the employment status and statutory rights of those on zero hours contracts following the government’s push on transparency. In anticipation, reviewing employment status, ensuring statutory entitlements are properly granted, including holiday pay, and improving the way that zero hours contracts are communicated and understood by managers and workers are all sensible precautions to take. A good HR consultant can help in this regard.