Zero-hours employment contracts

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The government has published guidance for employers on the use of zero-hours contracts, explaining their appropriate and inappropriate use, as well as setting out alternatives and best practice.

The guidance follows the introduction in May 2015 of the government's ban on exclusivity clauses, where employers can no longer prevent staff on zero-hours contracts from working for another employer.

A zero-hours contract is one in which the employer does not guarantee the individual any hours of work. The employer offers the individual work when it arises, and the individual can either accept the work offered, or decide not to take up the offer of work on that occasion.

The government's guidance provides examples of when zero-hours contracts might be appropriate, including:

  • in new businesses - where demand might be fluctuating and unpredictable
  • if there is seasonal work - to manage surges in demand, for example around christmas
  • employers needing to cover unexpected sickness in critical roles
  • businesses testing new services that they are thinking about providing, needing staff on a ad-hoc basis.

The guidance also suggests where zero-hours contracts might not be appropriate, what rights the individual may have and what alternative arrangements employers might use.  There are also sections on best practice and exclusivity clauses.

The full guidance can be found on the Gov.uk website.

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