The Government has introduced legislation banning the use of contracts that do not give a guarantee of work or pay, but which prohibit workers from taking work elsewhere.

This ends the practice of putting in place contracts that seek to prevent a worker from working for another employer while engaged under a zero hours contract, where they have no guarantee of work.

In future workers will be free to accept work from more than one employer. The ban will be introduced by the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014 which is currently proceeding through Parliament and is expected to come into force in March 2015. The Government is also working on a Code of Practice for zero hours contracts.

Flexible solution for the hospitality industry
Employees engaged under a zero hours contract are not guaranteed regular hours or even work at all. The employee is only paid for the work they carry out. The hospitality industry relies heavily on workers employed under such contracts to meet fluctuating demand, whether seasonal or otherwise – for example, waiting or bar staff who can be called in to fill gaps in the rota in a pub or restaurant.

Is it enough?
Labour continues to call for the Government to go further and outlaw zero hours contracts where they exploit workers. Their concern is that these contracts give no security and require workers to take the risk of fluctuating weekly income rather than employers. Labour believes that workers should be given longer notice of shifts and should be paid if shifts are cancelled at short notice.

They also believe that if in practice a worker is working regular hours then they should be able to demand a fixed contract. Business leaders have praised the Government for getting the balance right, preventing the worst abuses of workers whilst at the same time continuing to permit flexibility for both businesses and employees.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.