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The end of exclusive relationships: zero hour contracts

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Roses, chocolates and...pre-nups

Employees on zero hour contracts can no longer be banned from working for other employers.

The exclusivity terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 came into force on 11th January 2016 and provide greater protection to those employed on zero hour contracts.

A controversial feature of some zero hour contracts is a clause which prohibits the employee from working for another employer. Therefore if the employee is not asked to work by their employer they are unable to gain an income from alternative employment, as this would breach their contract of employment which may result in dismissal.

The new legislation means that an employee working on a zero hour contract who is dismissed for breaching a contractual clause which prevents them from working for another employer can bring a claim for unfair dismissal. The employee does not have to have worked for a minimum length of time with the employer and so the claim can be brought on day one of their employment.

The legislation also prevents and employer from subjecting an employee working on a zero hour contract with such a clause to a detriment for breaching that clause. Therefore if the employee does work for another employer, the primary employer cannot treat them less favourably for doing so.

This is a welcome development given that zero hour contracts are increasingly common amongst the UK workforce. The Office of National Statistics reported that 744,000 workers were employed under such arrangements in 2015. The challenge remains the need to balance flexibility with protection for workers, but these new regulations are a step in the right direction. 

By graduate paralegal, Michelle Tilley