Zero hour contracts have received national attention in the last few months and last week the law changed to afford zero hours workers greater protection than ever before.
The mouthful that is the “Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015” (the Regulations), is another step by the government to control the use of zero hours contracts.
The Regulations provide a remedy for those who have been dismissed or suffered a detriment as a consequence of their employer’s reliance on an exclusivity clause.
It is common knowledge that under zero hours contracts workers are given no guaranteed hours. In spite of this, these contracts have previously included ‘exclusivity clauses’ which prevented workers from working for another employer – even when they were not working for their zero hours employer.
Last spring the Employment Rights Act was amended so that exclusivity clauses were rendered unenforceable, yet there was effectively no remedy for an employee whose employer sought to rely on an unlawful exclusivity clause. This has now changed.
Under the new law if a zero hours worker is dismissed for working for another employer in “breach” of the exclusivity clause, that dismissal will now be now automatically unfair.
No qualifying period will be required to bring an unfair dismissal claim. It is also now unlawful to submit a zero hour worker to a detriment if they work for another employer in breach of the exclusivity clause.
Employers with zero hours workers should review their contracts and practices in order to ensure compliance with the Regulations and the government’s guidance on them.
However it is worth noting that the Regulations will only impact upon zero hours workers engaged on contracts which include exclusivity clauses. So in theory it may be possible to impose an enforceable exclusivity clause by guaranteeing a very limited number of hours work to the worker.
It will be interesting to see whether employers will circumvent the legislation in this way and the resulting developments in this area.
For more information about zero hours contracts or to find out about how the Employment team can help you, please contact Nick Bailey on 0118 959 7711 or email [email protected].
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.