Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has shown a 21% increase in the use of zero hour contracts by employers during 2016, despite the high profile political criticism and bad publicity such contracts have attracted in recent years.
The use of zero hour contracts continues to grow amongst many Lincolnshire businesses who require a high degree of flexibility to meet customer demand, such as hotels and leisure, residential and home care, as well as agriculture and food production.
However, a number of misconceptions still surround the use of such contracts, which could lead to serious legal problems for employers.
Zero hour workers can only work for one employer.
Recent legislation (The Exclusive Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015) prevents employers from stopping workers on such contracts from taking other jobs.
To try and prevent an employee working elsewhere could result in a claim for unfair/constructive dismissal, regardless of their length of service.
They are not entitled to holiday pay. They simply turn work down if they want holiday.
Zero hour workers still accrue holiday entitlement. They are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid leave per annum, with a week’s pay being based on the average income earned over a twelve week period.
They are not entitled to maternity / paternity and sick pay.
If workers earn an average of £112 per week, they will still be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, as well as Statutory Maternity/Paternity Pay.
Failure by an Employer to provide any of these statutory entitlements could result in claims for unfair dismissal, regardless of length of service.
Zero hours workers are also entitled to receive the National Minimum/Living Wage.
Most employers are aware of this, but would only pay it when the worker is directly involved in the delivery of their services.
However, if such workers are required to travel between jobs/places of work, they may also be entitled to pay for the traveling time. If an employer doesn’t pay for this travelling time they risk dragging the overall hourly rate of pay below the statutory minimum, which can result in employment tribunal claims for loss of statutory rights, and the employer being ‘named and shamed’ by the Low Pay Commission.
Working Time Regulations also apply to zero hour workers, which means that the worker must be given an eleven hour undisturbed break period in every 24 hour period, as well as having one day off per week, or an average of two days off in fourteen.
Again, failure to provide these entitlements can result in litigation at the employment tribunal.