The Office of National Statistics estimates that there are 200,000 staff employed under the terms of zero-hours contracts. However, recent press coverage suggests that this is an underestimate (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23570345).
What is a zero hours contract?
It is a contract, which allows for casual working, under which the employer does not guarantee to provide the worker with any work and pays the worker only for work actually carried out. The worker is expected to be available for work, if or when called on by the employer.
As the term has no definite legal meaning, there is scope for different interpretations. It may also be used to describe an arrangement where the worker is free to accept or refuse work when offered.
Why the press coverage?
Such contracts are very attractive to employers, particularly in an uncertain market, but the concern is that contracts can leave staff without guaranteed hours, sick pay or holiday pay, and can mean it is impossible to get a tenancy agreement or mortgage because it is not possible to prove regular income.
Further, the contracts could leave workers vulnerable to sudden reductions in shift patterns and last-minute shift cancellations at the discretion of managers.
The latest revelations prompted trade unions and politicians to condemn the phenomenon and it is reported by the Guardian that the Business Department will now carry out a formal review, you can see the article here.
Contact us now for advice whether you are an employee or employer.