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The exclusivity myth of zero hours contracts

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New research published by law firm Bond Dickinson reveals that fears regarding zero hours contracts may have been exaggerated.  A survey of firms reveals that just one in ten respondents using zero hours contracts (11 percent) uses exclusivity clauses, which seek to prohibit workers from securing employment with another firm. 

The research reveals that rather than workers being kept in the dark regarding these contracts many of them embrace the flexibility they offer.  Indeed 97 percent of firms surveyed that advertise or recruit on a zero hours contract basis explain the implications of these types of contracts to applicants. The majority of companies utilising contracts of this nature also give workers adequate notice before increasing or decreasing their hours.  Of those surveyed almost half (46 percent) give employees over a week’s notice before their hours are altered.  Only 12 percent of companies surveyed give less than 48 hours’ notice before altering a worker’s hours allocation. 

Graham Richardson, Director in the Employment Team at Bond Dickinson commented: “Zero hours contracts have attracted controversy, but our research highlights employers and workers value the flexibility they provide.  Over-regulation of zero hours contracts may damage employers’ ability to service fluctuating customer demands efficiently.  This could in turn damage the wider economy and the interests of staff that regulation would be intended to protect.” The research does reveal the majority (67 percent) of companies responding to the survey, who advertise or recruit on a zero hours basis, would support the Government restricting the use of exclusivity clauses.  The survey also reveals that of those responding to the survey, 83 percent of companies utilising these contracts would be in favour of additional Government guidance on these contracts. Richardson continued:“In some cases exclusivity clauses may be justified, where firms are seeking to prevent a worker from working for a direct competitor, or where a conflict of interest arises.  It would be sensible to distinguish this from a blanket ban on working for other employers.”

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