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A Guide to Zero- Hour Contracts

By LLM Students Emma Rodgers, Beth Lockwood and Vivenne Pinnington.

Have you been offered a zero-hour contract and want to know where you stand legally? We aim to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Q. What are they?

A. Zero-hour contracts, or casual contracts, are types of contracts used by employers whereby workers have no guaranteed hours and agree to potentially be available.

Q. Who do they affect?

A. According to the 2017 survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) zero-hour contracts affect:

  • People aged 16 to 24 (33.8%)
  • Women (57.7%)
  • Part time workers (65.4%)


Q. Why do companies have them?

A. Zero-hour contracts bring about flexibility to businesses, allowing for people to choose to work as and when they need, rather than being contracted to set shifts.

Q. Do I have to pick up all shifts?

A. No. Casual contracts mean that work is picked up as and when it suits you, from the employee perspective. Although some employers may try to pressure workers to pick up these shifts, legally you do not have to.

Q. Can I have more than one job?

A. An employer, MUST NOT put an exclusivity clause into your contract. This means that you can have multiple jobs whilst on a casual contract, and not be dismissed for it.

Q.What are my legal rights?

A.Legally if you are classed as a worker on a zero-hour contract you are entitled to:

  • Statutory sick pay
  • Paid holidays
  • Family rights (such as maternity and paternity leave)
  • National Minimum wage
  • Protection against discrimination
  • Protection against unfair dismissal


Q. What about holiday entitlement?

A. Anyone who is employed is entitled to holidays whether they are full-time or part, or under a zero-hour contract. The holiday entitlement is 5.6 weeks’ minimum for a zero-hour contract.

 Q.Does the employer need to provide notice?

A. Typically, there is no entitlement to give a zero-hour worker paid statutory minimum notice.

Q.Are the rules about notice different if the employee is on an ongoing contract?

A. Where an employee is engaged in a continuous contract (working at least once every seven days) or hired on an ‘umbrella’ contract (classified as ongoing, even if there are breaks in employment) then the employee will have continuity of employment and therefore the contract must be terminated by either giving the statutory minimum notice or notice in line with the contract.

Q.Does the employee need to give notice?

A.Just as the employer does not have to provide notice to the zero-hour worker, the worker does not have to provide notice to the employer. They may simply decide to decline all future work offers until they cease to be offered.

This remains true unless the worker is under an overarching or umbrella contract or has built up continuity through regular work. In this instance, the worker is obligated to give statutory minimum notice to terminate the contract.

Q.What are the possible drawbacks or problems with zero-hour contracts?

A.  Legal status of casual workers can come into question as their status is difficult to define. Usually workers are categorised by the status of worker, employee and self-employed. However, in regard to people engaging in casual contracts, these are usually workers or self-employed.

  • Worker – this is typically someone with a contract for services, or someone who receives work on an as and when basis. This is the usual classification for a 0-hour contract. Workers have employment rights such as national minimum wage, paid holiday, and protection against unlawful discrimination.
  • Self-Employed – these are people who draft in their own work, typically with clients. However, in regard to employment rights self-employed workers tend to have less rights than employees and workers but do have protection against discrimination and health and safety.


Difficulty arises on legal terms dependent upon what is status you have. For example, in regard to tax issues and pension. The best way in which to discover what type of worker you are is by looking at your own individual contract.


Final thoughts

 A recent government review, ‘Good Work: the Taylor review on modern working practices’, details the ways in which labour is sold in the modern climate. With casual contracts and newer services such as Uber and Deliveroo, these have helped to shape the ways flexible employment is gained. Giving rise to the UK being recognised as having one of the most highly flexible labour markets in the world. It has also aimed to give more insight into the rights employees within this modern model have. However, there is much debate on whether these contracts are exploiting workers with less guarantee of work.

SHU Law aims to provide free legal aid and access to justice for all. If you need of advice in regard to your rights or any claims of employment liability, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0114 2256666 or at enquiries@shulaw.co.uk.











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