As of today, 11th January, workers on zero hour contracts have finally been provided protection by the law.
The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 offer protection for workers which make up 2.4% of the working population (ONS). The regulations provide that any dismissal of a zero hour contract employee is automatically unfair; providing the principal reason is that s/he breached a contractual clause prohibiting him/her from working for another employer.
For workers bringing a claim for unfair dismissal on these grounds, there’s now no requirement for a qualifying period. The regulations also mean that it is also unlawful to submit a zero hour worker to detriment if they work for another employer, even if this work is in breach of a clause prohibiting them from doing so.
So called ‘exclusivity clauses’ in zero hour contracts have been unlawful since May 2015, but the regulations now give workers the right to complain to an employment tribunal where they are dismissed or suffer a detriment as a result of undertaking work for another employer.
Until the regulations came into force, employers could ‘punish’ individuals for breaching the exclusivity clause by not offering them further work as there were no repercussions for their actions. In 2015 20% of workers on zero hours contracts wanted a new or additional job, compared to the 7% of those not on zero hours contracts (ONS). Thus, the regulations will benefit these workers greatly and give them a greater amount of freedom in their work.
The Regulations don’t aid the 24% of zero hour contract workers who want additional hours in their job. Neither does it provide permanence for the workers who remain on zero hour contracts long term, with 9% of these workers having been on a zero hours contract for more than ten years. There remains a great amount of uncertainty and lack of permanence with zero hour contracts where workers can still be said to be at their employer’s mercy.