‘Employers should expect changes’ regarding zero-hours contracts, says Eversheds

Simon Rice-Birchall, partner at Eversheds, has said that after discussion over the potential abuse of zero-hour contracts, employers should expect some change to come.

Birchall, who was commenting after the government published a consultation into the use, and potential abuse, of zero-hour contracts in the UK workplace, said that the major problem faced by the government is the absence of any legal definition of a zero-hour contract.

He said: ‘This matters because any attempt at regulating their use without a clear definition will inevitably be a blunt instrument and may have unintended and undesirable consequences, for example putting up barriers to other forms of flexible work. This is one reason why the government is signalling a cautious approach to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.’

Birchall continued: ‘However, with the political heat rising over the potential abuse of zero-hour contracts, employers should expect some change to come.’

He added that it seems likely that the government will seek to stop employers from unnecessarily banning zero-hour workers working for another employer — so-called ‘exclusivity’ clauses — and that, in practice, few employers demand such exclusivity and many will consider this a reasonable step in the circumstances.

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