Zero Hours Contracts
A study of 600 employers by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation has found that over a quarter of firms are currently using zero-hour contracts; contracts of employment which create an ‘on call’ arrangement between employer and employee. These contracts do not oblige the employer to provide work for the employee, or for the employee to accept the work offered.
Zero-hours contracts can be an attractive option for some employers in today’s economic climate and, managed correctly, can be appealing to both workers and employers because of their flexibility.
Zero hours contracts provide workers with certain employment rights, such as paid holiday and redundancy rights, which do not apply to casual workers. For employers, these contracts can provide a much needed resource to deal with peak demand for human resources in a manner that is practicable in today’s restricted economic climate.
Zero hours contracts come, however, with their own pitfalls. For example, if the same few workers are used to cover the additional shifts, the system may not be seen as fair to everyone and this could leave the employer exposed to the risk of a claim for discrimination. To minimise this risk, it may be wise for employers to clear from their books any workers that refuse shifts on more than, say, three occasions and to notify them in advance that a history of refusal will determine whether they get future work.
Zero hours contracts have received a lot of press lately and have often been misunderstood. However, it is likely that they will become more popular as the economy moves back to a period of growth. It is therefore essential that this type of contract is set up with clarity so that its clear respective benefits can be achieved by employer and employee alike.