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Zero Hours Contracts: DBIS Consultation

Published 08 June 2014

Update on Department for Business Innovation and Skills Consultation.

Zero hours contracts have been a hot topic over the last year or so; so much so in fact that in December 2013 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (DBIS), lead by Vince Cable (MP), embark on a consultation process to understand the extent of the issue. The consultation process into “Zero hours employment contracts” has now finished with an interim report in to its finding.

The evidence suggests that there is between 250,000 to 1 million zero hours contracts in use today, with varying views on their practice and suggestions by some organisation’s that they should be banned altogether.

Zero hours contracts has no real definition in law, but in essence the employment contract does not guarantee the individual any work or hours and there is no obligation on the individual to accept the work if it offered to you.

There is the erroneous view that the ‘zero hours’ contract provides no legal protection at all and that the individual is not an employee. The reality, however, is different and will depend on a range of factors, especially whether the individual, in law, is classed as an ‘employee’ or a ‘worker’, which the majority are.

This would in effect provide the individual the normal employment rights, from minimum wage, rest breaks, notice period, discrimination, unfair dismissal and often paid suspension during a disciplinary process.

The two main areas that the consultation paper identified were:

  1. Exclusivity – where the individual is prevented from working for any other employer.
  2. Transparency – Where the individual has no real knowledge of their rights and the employer does not fulfill their responsibility and sometimes penalizing the individual for not taking the work and always at short notice.

The options open to the Government are to:

  1. Legislation
  2. Guidance for employers
  3. Code of practice for employers
  4. Leave to existing legal remedies

Whatever the decision the Government makes, it will be for the employer to implement, causing further costs: changing their existing contracts and maybe the way they are implemented in practice.

For the full report


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