September 16, 2013

Zero-hour employment contracts: here to stay?

This post was written by: Aston Bond Law Firm

Your contract of employment is one of the most important contracts you will sign in your life, which should provide you with financial security. However, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of employees working on zero-hour employment contracts.

Much controversy surrounds zero-hour contracts, with both political figures and human rights campaigners questioning the legality of these type of employment contracts.

To understand the legality of zero-hour employment contracts, you should first understand what they are, how they work and how they affect both the employer and employee. A zero-hour employment contract is an employment contract in which no specified time is given as to the number of hours an employee is scheduled to work per week or per month. This allows the employer to employ an individual without any limitation on the minimum number of hours an employee will work per week or per month. This means that the employee has no secure income due to the day-to-day uncertainty of available paid work.

This has advantages and disadvantages for both the employer and employee. For an employee, a zero-hour contract offers flexibility and is often popular with students who require flexible working hours alongside their uncertain studying hours. For the employer, these type of employment contracts are seen as beneficial, as it allows the employer to adapt to the needs of their business and the market, day-by-day.

Many employers see the zero-hour employment contract as cost efficient, although there is still of course the mandatory requirement for the employer to pay the employee the national minimum wage.

But are zero-hour employment contracts legal? Yes. These type of employment contracts are legal with no limitations other than the limitations that are placed on conventional employment agreements. With large corporations in the UK heavily relying on zero-hour employment contracts, the government would arguably be taking a large risk in placing limitations and/or banning these type of employment contracts, as it could have a negative effect on the current employment rate.

It is likely that zero-hour employment contracts will come under further scrutiny in the future, however, unless and until any legal restraints are implemented, it is just as likely that the use of zero-hour employment contracts will continue to increase.

Vinesh Patel, Paralegal


Aston Bond Solicitors in Slough and providing legal services to clients across Oxford, London, High Wycombe and Reading are specialist employment law solicitors. To find out more about our employment solicitors and our employment law services please click here.