A zero-hour contract is an employment agreement between an employer and an employee. The term ‘zero-hour contract’ is a non-legal term but generally refers to an arrangement whereby the employer does not guarantee the employee any hours of work. The hours are offered when work is available, meaning work, and therefore, money, are never certain.
Whilst the hours offered are not guaranteed, the employee also has the option to not work the hours offered, depending on the type of contract. In all cases, the employer is required to pay at least minimum wage.
In this article, Bowsers Solicitors’ professional and knowledgeable employment law team explores some of the factors you should consider as an employee before signing a zero-hours contract.
What are your rights?
All employees in the UK are entitled to statutory employment rights. This involves:
- Statutory annual leave.
- National minimum wage.
- Rest breaks at work.
- Rest between working days or shifts.
- Weekly rest periods.
If you are employed under a zero-hours contract, you are entitled to these rights. In addition, if you take up employment elsewhere, this must be allowed by your employer. You may do so if you are not receiving enough hours of work (and pay) under your zero-hours contract.
What are the benefits?
As an employee, you may be on the fence about signing a zero-hours contract. However, signing such a contract can bring several benefits. It may not be suitable for some; however, some positives include:
- Working as much or as little as you want provides flexibility that you may welcome, perhaps relating to childcare or other commitments.
- Freedom. If you sign a zero-hours contract but do not receive enough hours, you can look for other work elsewhere. Exclusivity clauses that restrict you from working elsewhere are now banned.
- CV building. All experience is positive, and working a zero-hours contract will work in your favour when speaking to future employers, particularly compared to someone who has not worked for a prolonged period or who has several gaps in their employment.
- Possibility of permanent work. Sometimes, employers reward hard-working employees on zero-hours contracts with an offer of permanent part-time or full-time roles.
Whether or not a zero-hour contract is appropriate for you will depend on your lifestyle, income requirements and other personal circumstances.
Are all relevant aspects considered?
If you decide that you are willing to enter into a zero-hour contract, there are a few key aspects that you should check on the contract before signing. An employer following best practices will consider and make provisions for the following aspects of your employment contract:
- Your employment rights.
- Any employment entitlements that will be accrued in necessary cases.
- How the contract may be terminated.
If you are signing a zero-hour contract, it is likely that you are a student or a person with caring responsibilities (such as a parent with young children). In this case, your employer should aim to give as much notice as possible before the beginning of a shift. We recommend speaking to your employer about this. It may even be necessary to ask for the employment contract to contain a clause pertaining to such matters.
Similarly, it is likely that your employment contract will contain a clause that prevents you from cancelling your shift at late notice.
What are the drawbacks?
Whilst a zero-hour contract can offer much-needed freedom and flexibility for some employees, the lack of structure and uncertainty is not favourable for many. Some drawbacks of entering into a zero-hour contract include:
- Unpredictability. The lack of structure and predictability can mean it is difficult to plan financially or arrange commitments such as childcare.
- Limited benefits. Many companies that offer zero-hour contracts do not offer the same benefits to you compared to those on permanent contracts, such as paid leave, holiday pay or sick pay.
- Uncertain income. Employers are not required to provide the same number of hours each week, meaning steady income is not guaranteed. This may make it difficult for you to manage your finances and plan for the future.
Employment Law Solicitors Cambridgeshire
Zero-hour contracts can be highly beneficial to the right employee. However, many UK-based companies have faced backlash in recent years for failing to adhere to employment laws relating to their employees on zero-hour contracts.
If you have reason to believe that your employment rights have been breached whilst working under a zero-hour contract, then it is vital to seek the appropriate advice from an experienced employment lawyer promptly. Similarly, if you want to speak to a solicitor about your contract before you sign it, this is sensible.
At Bowsers Solicitors, our employment law solicitors have worked with clients across March and Wisbech for many years. We take the time to understand your circumstances and claim and will do all we can to support you throughout your matter.