Zero-hours contracts — is time up?

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Growing public concern over zero-hours contracts has led the UK government to review their use. What does this mean for companies that employ staff on such contracts?

The term ‘zero hours’ is not a term of art but generally indicates a contract for casual work under which the employer is not obliged to provide a minimum (or any) amount of work, and hence pay, to the worker. Sometimes contracts impose an obligation on workers to accept all work offered by the employer, in others they are given more freedom to turn work down. In essence, zero-hours contracts allow employers to put workers ‘on call’, ensuring they are available for work when required but with no obligation to actually offer work.

Zero-hours contracts are very popular and their use has even spread to the public sector, including the NHS. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of zero-hours workers has risen from 131,000 to 200,000 since 2007. It was recently revealed that 90 per cent of Sports Direct workers are employed on zero-hours contracts…

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