Employment law

Zero-hours contracts: Exclusivity loophole closed

Fred Heritage | 26 January 2016 | 8 years ago

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The exclusivity laws around zero-hours contracts have been updated
An important legal loophole has been closed in zero-hours contract legislation that will give workers on zero-hours the ability to take legal action against employers that breach exclusivity clauses that prevent employees from seeking work elsewhere.

Under the new measures, which came into effect on the week beginning 11 January, zero-hours workers have the right to complain to an employment tribunal over unfair dismissal or having suffered a detriment at work as a result of exclusivity in a contract.

Last year, legislation made exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts unenforceable, giving more freedom to workers to hold down alternative paying jobs. However, there was no penalty for employers that appeared to still be treating employees unfairly under the contracts.

Employment law expert and partner at law firm Miller Hendry, Alan Matthew, explained the changes and their significance. If an employee on a zero-hours contract is dismissed because they have worked for another employer, that is automatically unfair and could lead to a claim for unfair dismissal, said Matthew.

it is now unlawful to subject a zero-hour worker to detriment for working for another employer, he added. There is no qualifying period of employment required to bring such a claim for unfair dismissal compared to a two-year qualifying period for most unfair dismissal claims.

Many employers of zero-hours workers have been working on this basis for some time, but by codifying the rules, the regulatory burden of proof behind dismissals shifts squarely from the employee to the employer at the outset.

Under the new rules, it is for the employer to establish that a dismissal or detriment under a zero-hours contract was for something other than a breach, and if it cannot do so it will lose.

The Exclusivity Terms in Zero-hours Contracts Regulations 2015 were passed by the government in May last year, with the redress coming into force on 11 January.

Want to find out more about aspects of employment law that might be relevant to your small business? Read our expert’s view.

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