Love them or loath them, the use of zero hours contracts continues to rise and it is reported that 1.5 million employees are now on zero-hours contracts (figures as at September 2015) which is equivalent to 2.4% of those in employment in the UK (data from the Office for National Statistics).
The subject of zero hour’s contracts and their increased usage has generated genuine concerns regarding the exploitation of this group of workers and has been heavily publicised and debated in the press over recent years. This increased media profile has encouraged the Government to look at ways in which they can redress the balance for this group of workers.
One particular area of concern was the use of exclusivity clauses in the contracts that prevented workers on zero hours contracts from taking up work with other organisations or stipulating that the employee must have consent from their employer before doing so – even though they are not guaranteed any hours of work by the very virtue of the contract! So in May 2015 saw the introduction of exclusivity clauses within zero hour’s contracts being prohibited and unenforceable. Therefore, if there is an exclusivity clause contained within a zero hours contract the law states that the worker is not bound by it and therefore they can ignore it.
However, this, in turn, has led to workers being punished or receiving unfavourable treatment if they were working elsewhere or employers attempting to avoid the exclusivity ban. There was no ability for the workers to act on any such ban being stipulated or put upon them and no penalties for employers who failed to act on the removal of exclusivity clauses or refusing to adhere to the ban ….. until now!
From 11 January 2016, new regulations have been introduced that gives those employed on zero hours contracts the right to bring a complaint to an employment tribunal for compensation if they are subjected to a detriment, dismissed or their employer punishes them for breaching exclusivity clauses – this includes working for another employer or for asking permission to work for another employer. A successful claim may result in an award of compensation – the amount of which is down to the discretion of the tribunal based on what the tribunal feels is “just and equitable” in the circumstances.
So employers using zero hours contracts need to adhere to the following points regarding exclusivity clauses now covered by legislation:
- Employers must allow workers on zero hours contracts to work elsewhere if they do not offer sufficient hours.
- Employers must not attempt to avoid the exclusivity ban by, for example, stipulating that the worker must seek permission from their employer to look for or accept work elsewhere.
- Employers should not include exclusivity clauses in a zero hours contract however if they do then the worker is not bound by it and can ignore it.
If you would like to talk to one of the CoLaw team, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 08456 588703