Covid-19 Update: We are continuing to provide our usual services whilst maintaining the safety of clients and colleagues. Read our latest update here.

Complete the form below to ask us a question or make an enquiry. We’ll get back to you via phone or email as soon as possible.

Insights

Zero-hour contract guidance for employers

Posted on 10th February 2021 in Employment

Posted by

Stephen Jennings

Partner and Solicitor
Zero-hour contract guidance for employers

There is no specific legal definition of a ‘zero hours contract’ but it is generally understood to mean an arrangement under which the worker has no set minimum hours and is only paid for hours actually worked. Typically the worker does not have to accept any work offered to him or her, but must carry out the work personally if they do.

Zero hours contracts are often used to create a pool of workers who are ‘on call’ to help cover unexpected surges in work, or for specialist staff who may be on leave or ill, or for on-call work such as care work. This negates the need of having to take on permanent employees or expensive agency workers.

There are many pitfalls and inappropriate use of zero-hour contracts, but the main areas of zero-hour contract guidance for employers are highlighted here.

 

Status

Most zero hours contracts will give staff ‘worker’ status, which entitles them to rest breaks, annual holiday, sick pay and, importantly, to be paid the national minimum wage. However they will not have ’employee’ status, which carries further rights such as the entitlement to claim for unfair dismissal, to maternity pay and leave, to ask for flexible working, to statutory minimum notice periods, and to redundancy payments.

However if the contract is too prescriptive, there is a risk (whatever it may say) that it in fact gives rise to an employment relationship. Examples of provisions which can suggest the contract is one of employment are where the contract provides that the worker must be available for work whenever it is offered, cannot work for anyone else (this type of prohibition is actually unlawful), where the organisation exercises a high level of control over the individual when they are working, or if the individual can be disciplined if they refuse work.

For further help on worker and employee status and rights, please seek specific advice from our expert Employment lawyers.

 

Rest breaks

Zero hours contract workers have the same right to a 20-minute break in every six hours worked, and 11 hours’ uninterrupted rest in every 24-hour period, and 24 uninterrupted hours in every seven-day period as other workers.

Also, like other workers, they are not allowed to work more than 48 hours per week unless they have contracted out of that requirement.

 

Annual leave

Zero hours contract workers have the same statutory right to at least 5.6 weeks’ annual leave each year, including bank holidays. Calculating annual leave for those who work irregularly can be tricky; there are no regulations on how to convert the entitlement into days or hours for workers with irregular hours. Often the best option is to calculate average days or hours worked each week based on a representative reference period.

 

Sick pay

Zero hours contract workers must be paid statutory sick pay from the fourth day of their sickness absence, if they have been ill for at least four days and their average weekly earnings over the last eight weeks has been at least as much as the lower earnings limit per week.

 

National Minimum Wage

The national minimum wage must be paid to zero hours contract workers who are on your work premises, even if they are only there waiting to be allocated work. The NMW is revised every year; current rates can be found here: National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

Discrimination

Zero hours workers are protected by discrimination laws too. Employers whose zero hours workers are generally of a particular age, sex or race (or any other protected characteristic) should ensure that any additional contractual rights enjoyed by permanent workers are also given to zero hours contract workers, or (in the absence of a good reason why they are not) risk discrimination claims.

For help and support on anything covered in this insight please talk to one of our expert Employment team.

Contact our legal experts

 


 

Paper plane

 

Get the latest news straight from our legal experts.

Subscribe to our newsletter to recieve current, dedicated, suppport and guidance from our solicitors straight to your inbox, wherever you are.

Company & Industry

Related Insights

Insights

Model dies from multi-organ failure due to sepsis

Posted on 13th May 2021 in Medical Negligence

Chloe Rideout, who died at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro in October 2018, was “let down” by healthcare professionals, according to her mother in a recent news article.

Posted by

Stuart Bramley

Partner and Solicitor
Insights

Continued support for tenants as Covid restrictions ease

Posted on 13th May 2021 in Affordable Housing

On 12 May 2021, the government announced that “tenants will continue to be supported as national COVID-10 restrictions ease”.

Posted by

Sarah Schooling

Associate and Solicitor