A quick reminder that new rules in place as of 11 January 2016 give greater protection to zero-hours workers, protecting them from dismissal and suffering from a detriment if they seek to work for another employer while engaged under a zero-hours contract.
A great deal of debate took place at the time of the 2015 UK General Election regarding the status of zero-hours workers. These are individuals who are engaged under a contract with the employer, under which they are not guaranteed any hours of work. Concern was expressed during the General Election that employers were exploiting these contracts. One of the concerns was the use by employers of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours workers’ contracts which meant that, even though the employer was not required to provide workers with any work, those same workers were prevented from working for another employer.
Zero-hours workers enjoy a basic set of employment rights, such as the right to paid annual leave and to the National Minimum Wage for hours worked. Regulations were introduced in May 2015 to render exclusivity clauses unenforceable in zero-hours contracts. To give these provisions greater force, as of 11 January 2016:
- Any dismissal of a zero-hours worker because they work for, or provide services to, another employer, in breach of an exclusivity clause in a zero-hours contract, is automatically unfair.
- It is unlawful to subject a zero-hours worker to a detriment because he or she seeks to work for another employer in breach of an exclusivity provision in a zero-hours contract.
Given that exclusivity clauses are already effectively prohibited, the new regulations are likely to have limited impact. However, it is welcome that zero-hours workers now have a mechanism to enforce the prohibition on exclusivity clauses in an Employment Tribunal, should an employer seek to enforce them.