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Zero-hours contracts

Published Friday, August 17, 2018

This note discusses zero-hours contracts; a type of contract used by employers whereby workers agree to be potentially available for work although have no guaranteed hours.

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This note discusses zero-hours contracts: a type of contract used by employers whereby workers have no guaranteed hours and agree to be potentially available for work.  They may be used by companies seeking labour flexibility and by workers seeking flexibility around their other commitments.

Estimates for April-June 2018 suggest that 780,000 people were on zero-hours contracts in their main job, representing 2.4% of all people in employment.

Opinion on zero-hours contracts has been mixed.  Employee organisations tend to argue that the contracts result in financial insecurity for workers who lack key employment rights; employer organisations stress their utility when seeking to meet fluctuating demand and argue that they play a vital role in keeping people in employment.

Prior to the 2015 General Election, the Coalition Government and the Opposition proposed measures to address concerns about the use of zero-hours contracts.  Notably, section 153 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 and supporting regulations seek to prevent the use of “exclusivity clauses” in zero-hours contracts (i.e. prohibit a contractual requirement for a worker to work exclusively for one employer irrespective of the hours offered).

Commons Briefing papers SN06553

Authors: Douglas Pyper; Feargal McGuinness

Topic: Employment

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