Zero Hour Contracts – What Do You Need to Know about Them?

Some companies, especially those in retail, have a huge spike in labour needs in November and December. What are the options for dealing with this?

Here are the most common ways of coping with seasonal labour requirements.

Agency workers – where an employment agency deals with the administration involved in fluctuating workforce needs. You can pay the agency for these services, but it can be a cost- and time-effective solution.

Traditional fixed-term contracts – these are not quite as flexible as the other options, but short-notice provisions are often inserted into the contracts.

Zero hours contracts – as the employer you are under no obligation to offer work and (generally, although not always) your employee is under no obligation to accept any work offered. This provides both parties with greater flexibility.

Increased overtime (including weekend work) – the viability of this option depends on how much more labour is needed.

There has been a lot of negative publicity surrounding the use of zero hours contracts. Are they even legal?

Many zero hours contracts do not give workers full employment rights. It is difficult to construe an employment relationship when neither party has to provide and/or undertake work. Seasonal working is a good example of when zero hours contracts can be used effectively. Fluctuations within the busy period mean that the employer may require the flexibility that only zero hours contracts provide (if recruiting direct). Recent bad press surrounding zero hours contracts relates mainly to large organisations using them for their core workforce. While not unlawful, there is a growing belief that having core workforces working zero hours contracts is an attempt to short-circuit employment rights legislation.