Zero-hour contracts: their rise… and potential fall?

Zero-hour contracts have grown in popularity over recent years and have made the headlines over the last couple of weeks. The Office of National Statistics has estimated that around 200,000 staff are now employed in this way (‘Estimating Zero-Hour Contracts from the Labour Force Survey’, July 2013). However, it is thought that this is an underestimate, with the reality being more like one million (Chartered Institute of Professional Development, 5 August 2013).

Vince Cable thinks they are being abused and has announced a review of their use.

So what are zero-hour contracts and why are they used? Zero-hour contracts are generally used to engage individuals on a genuinely ad-hoc, as required, basis, where an individual is only paid for the work actually carried out (usually hourly). As the term has no definitive legal meaning, it can be interpreted differently in practice. It can be used to describe the arrangement whereby a worker is expected to be available for work if called upon by an employer, but with no corresponding obligation on the employer to provide any work, or alternatively it can describe an arrangement where a worker is free to accept or refuse work when offered, so that there is no obligation on either party…

If you are registered and logged in to the site, click on the link below to read the rest of the Sintons briefing. If not, please register or sign in with your details below.

Sign in or Register to continue reading this article

Sign in


It's quick, easy and free!

It takes just 5 minutes to register. Answer a few simple questions and once completed you’ll have instant access.

Register now

Why register to The Lawyer


Industry insight

In-depth, expert analysis into the stories behind the headlines from our leading team of journalists.


Market intelligence

Identify the major players and business opportunities within a particular region through our series of free, special reports.


Email newsletters

Receive your pick of The Lawyer's daily and weekly email newsletters, tailored by practice area, region and job function.

More relevant to you

To continue providing the best analysis, insight and news across the legal market we are collecting some information about who you are, what you do and where you work to improve The Lawyer and make it more relevant to you.


The Cube
Barrack Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne & Wear

Turnover (£m): 15.70
No. of lawyers: 85