January 29, 2016

New Protection for Zero Hour Workers

The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 (Regulations) came into force on 11 January 2016. These provide additional protection to individuals on zero hours contracts.

By way of background, a “zero hours” contract is one under which an employer is not obliged to provide any minimum hours of work, and the individual is not obliged to accept any work offered. Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts prohibiting workers from taking up work with another employer have been unenforceable under U.K. law since May 2015. However, there was little the individuals could do if they were dismissed or subjected to a detriment for having breached such a clause. The Regulations seek to address this by establishing the following protections:

  • The dismissal of an employee on a zero hours contract will be automatically unfair if the principal reason for the dismissal is their breach of an exclusivity clause. There is no minimum length of service requirement to bring such a claim.
  • Employees and workers on zero hours contracts have the right not to be subjected to a detriment (i.e. unfavourably treated) if they breach an exclusivity clause. There is also no minimum length of service requirement to bring such a claim.

Given the increasing popularity of zero hours contracts in the U.K., it will be interesting to see the effect that the Regulations have in practice.

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