There has been significant media coverage on the widespread use of zero hours contracts and their apparent abuse by employers. Zero hours contracts give employers a high degree of flexibility as they do not guarantee workers a minimum number of working hours. In some cases however, employers were including “exclusivity clauses” in their zero hours contracts which prohibit the worker from working under another contract or arrangement (or prohibit the worker from doing so without the employer’s consent).
Since 26 May 2015, exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts have been unenforceable but there was little redress for workers where a contract still contained such a clause save that it was unenforceable against them. This has now been remedied. New rules came into force on 11 January 2016 (under The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015) which give those working under zero hours contracts greater protection.
Under the new regulations, the dismissal of a zero hour employee is automatically unfair if the reason or principal reason is that the employee failed to comply with an exclusivity clause and there is no minimum period of service before such a claim can be brought. In addition, zero hours employees have the right not to be subjected to a detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause.
The new regulations symbolise a small victory for zero hours workers. However, some commentators have suggested that the new regulations will simply mean that businesses think twice before using zero hours contracts and will instead use “Minimum Hour” style arrangements (which fall outside the scope of the new regulations).
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