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15 April 2015 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Zero hours contracts on the rise

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

The number of zero hours contracts in place across the UK has risen to 1.8million, sparking fresh debate about whether new laws need to be introduced to regulate these types of working conditions.

In the final three months of last year, 2.3 per cent of all people in employment (697,000  workers) stated that their main job was on a zero hours basis.

Zero hours contracts do not guarantee an individual any hours of work, as no minimum threshold is in place to regulate what a company has to provide.

Many workers and unions object to the fact that the contracts allow companies to send staff away without work, or avoid offering them any work for days or even weeks at a time.

Labour has signalled it will introduce more rigorous controls if it wins power in May and there is increasing criticism of exclusivity clauses, which prevent workers from taking work elsewhere.

The Government has, however, already stated its intention to outlaw exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts through provisions in the upcoming Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

It has also consulted on measures to tackle anti-avoidance of the exclusivity ban and proposes to introduce the concept of a “prescribed contract” – a contract which does not guarantee a specified minimum income but whereby the minimum income is defined by reference to an agreed number of hours multiplied by the minimum wage to ensure compliance with the National Minimum Wage Regulations

While business leaders have admitted that zero hours contracts have sometimes been abused in the past, many argue that they have prevented Britain from experiencing the high levels of joblessness reported in neighbouring countries.

Christian May, of the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: “For hundreds of thousands of workers and employers these contracts represent an extremely attractive proposition.

“A flexible labour market, of which zero hours contracts are a vital component, has protected the UK from European levels of unemployment. The alternative is a rigid labour market and high unemployment.”

The latest data about zero hours contracts was collated by the Office for National Statistics.

According to their research, the average employee on a zero hours contract is offered the chance to work 25 hours each week.

For more information on our employment law services, please contact our specialist  Employment & HR team.

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