Zero Hour Contracts

Under a zero hours contract, an employee agrees to be available to work for an employer as and when required. At the same time, however, the employee has the right to turn down any work (if it is not convenient or problematic) that is offered to them by the employer without question or penalty. Zero hour contracts have advantages for both parties – it allows an employer to bring in extra labour on a need only basis i.e. an urgent contract that needs to be fulfilled or seasonal demands. More importantly, the employer only has to pay the employee when work is actually carried out which has an obvious costs saving.

However, there are 2 potential pitfalls of zero hours contracts: (1) at the very least, the individual must be paid at a rate commensurate with their age because the national minimum wage does not apply in such situations; (2) if the employer offers a regular pattern of work to the employee (e.g. set hours or days), the employee could try and argue that they are a fixed term employee and therefore entitled to always be given those hours or days along with the associated employment rights.

Overall, zero hour contracts are a win-win all round for both employer and employee because of the flexibility involved; however, an employer does need to be careful not to create a regular working pattern because they could then have a permanent employee on their hands.

If you require any employment advice or representation, whether you are an employer or employee, feel free to contact Alan Davidson for a consultation: 01756 692 869.

Alan Davidson
Partner, Employment Law