Although there is no legal definition of such a contract, the government states that a zero-hours contract is “an employment contract in which an employer does not guarantee the individual any work and the individual is not obliged to accept any work offered”. Essentially, it is a contractual arrangement where there is no guaranteed minimum number of hours of work.
Readers will recall recent and significant negative press relating to the use of zero hours contracts by employers in the UK. Public and Parliamentary concern about the use of such contracts continues…the question being asked…are workers abused and exploited in this kind of contract?
As a result, in December 2013, the Government issued a consultation on zero hours contracts. The government sets its aim as to ‘maximise the opportunities of zero hours contracts while minimising abuse and setting core standards that protect individuals’. Consultation closed in March 2014 and employers await the outcomes and recommendations.
Recent Office For National Statistics research continues to keep zero hours contracts in the media. Based on a survey of businesses, ONS data indicates that from January 2014 to February 2014, approximately 1.4 million individuals in the UK are employed on zero hours contracts…significantly higher than previous estimates which suggested that approximately 600,000 individuals were employed on zero hours contracts from October to December 2013.
Vince Cable has confirmed that there is unlikely to be an outright ban on the use of such contracts which employers will welcome. However, more rules and regulations are likely. Watch this space!