Consultation on zero hours contracts

Business secretary Vince Cable has launched a consultation on zero-hours contracts in a bid to make plans to help identify and close loopholes in them, such as the use of exclusivity clauses, where ‘rogue’ employers offer a guarantee of just one hour of work.

The consultation is seeking advice from businesses, unions and individual on the best methods of preventing such scenarios and whether pre-emptive steps are necessary to flag attempts to circumvent any restrictions.

It also proposes options such as civil penalties, which workers could use to seek justice if their employer treats them unfairly because they found work elsewhere while on a zero-hours contract.

Zero-hours contracts have been criticised by unions because they can tie individuals to a workplace despite providing no guarantee of work and pay each week, while often denying employees sick pay or holiday pay.

Dr Cable said that the Government is “tightening the screws” on the minority of employers who try to abuse workers on zero-hours contracts, adding that he is looking closely at any potential loopholes that could arise from a ban, to ensure that these are closed off and no one can get round the new law.

Around 1.4 million UK jobs are offered on a zero-hours contract basis, according to a report published by the Office for National Statistics in April, with about 13 per cent of employers reporting some use of them.

However, such contracts are used by almost half of firms in the tourism, catering and food sectors and are more commonly used by large companies. The contracts are rare among workers in the financial and professional services and the manufacturing, energy and agricultural sectors.

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.