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What are zero-hour contracts?

The use of zero-hour contracts has become widespread in many sectors including the food service, retail, healthcare and leisure sectors. For employers, zero-hour contracts offer many advantages, for example, that the employer does not have to guarantee any hours of work and can offer workers changeable working hours at short notice.  The workers may or may not be required to accept any work that is offered depending on the terms of the contract.

On the flip side, for many employees there is great insecurity with these contracts and they are often at the beck and call of their employers. Employees do not have any certainty on the minimum number of hours they will be able to work each week. Apart from not knowing how much they are going to earn on a week-by-week basis, a number of employees on zero-hours contracts also find it difficult to obtain financing due to not having a guaranteed income. The flexibility of these arrangements does suit some workers.

All zero-hours workers are entitled to statutory annual leave and the National Minimum Wage in the same way as regular workers. Employers are also powerless to stop a zero-hours worker from getting work elsewhere. The law says they can ignore a clause in their contract if it bans them from looking for work and / or accepting work from another employer.

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