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1.4 million zero hours contracts fuels more HR concern

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Politicians and unions again call for action to curb employment on a “zero hours” basis, following the news that employers are using about 1.4m contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours.

Adam Lambert, Employment partner at Clyde & Co says: “Zero hours contracts can allow people to do occasional work if and when it fits in with their other commitments, rather than having inflexible working commitments that don't fit in. So, they are not always the contracts of last resort for workers. Workers on zero hours contracts will still have the benefit of employment rights such as the national minimum wage, holiday pay and protection from discrimination. Depending on the contracts, they may also gain the rights that are only attained over time, such as unfair dismissal protection and redundancy rights.

A combination of the unpopular tribunal fees and the low pay of the average zero-hours worker means the tribunal system is not going to be the solution for enforcement of regulation of such contracts. However, some regulation is possible to stop abuse. Making exclusivity clauses void, as proposed by Vince Cable, would help to stop one form of abuse as workers with no hours commitment from their employer could still seek work elsewhere. But for it to work, there needs to be a clear definition of what a zero-hours contract actually is. And if you over-regulate zero-hours contracts, will we see the birth of 'one-hour contracts' to avoid the rules?”

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