Government launches consultation on zero hours contracts

The Government has launched a consultation on addressing the abuse of zero hours contracts while maintaining the flexibility that they offer.

Earlier this year, the Government gathered information on the use of zero hours contracts, which it describes as a contract where the employer does not guarantee to offer an individual work and the individual is under no obligation to accept any work offered. It identified that zero hours contracts are a useful tool for employers and individuals, but also found problems with their use. The main issues include exclusivity clauses, which prevent individuals from working for another employer, even if the current employer is not offering any work; and transparency, in that employers are unclear about their responsibilities under zero hours contracts, and individuals are unsure of their rights under and the consequences of entering into a zero hours contract.

The consultation on zero hours employment contracts seeks views on proposals to address the problems associated with exclusivity clauses, including: prohibiting their use where no guarantee of work is offered; issuing guidance on the use of exclusivity clauses; encouraging the production of an employer-led code of practice on the fair use of exclusivity clauses; and relying on existing common law redress that enables individuals to challenge such clauses.

Options on improving the transparency of zero hours contracts include ameliorating the content and accessibility of information, advice and guidance on employment contracts and entitlements under zero hours contracts; encouraging a broader, employer-led code of practice on the fair use of zero hours contracts; and the production of model clauses for zero hours contracts.

The consultation closes on 13 March 2014.