Exclusivity clause ban is no end to zero-hours contracts matter, says Eversheds

Eversheds partner Simon Rice-Birchall has commented on Vince Cable’s announcement in relation to zero-hours contracts (ZHCs).

He noted that pressure has been mounting on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) for some time to prevent the negative consequences associated with some ZHCs, hence the government’s announcement of new legislation (in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill) aimed at banning the use of exclusivity clauses.

Rice-Birchall said: ‘Such clauses tie a worker to one employer even when there is no work available. However, as the government has already conceded by announcing a further consultation on how to prevent unscrupulous employers from seeking to evade this ban, a ban will not be the end of the matter.

‘In practice, banning exclusivity clauses in ZHCs may have little impact because few employers use them. Instead, the issue appears to be more subtle, with Acas
highlighting the issue of “effective exclusivity” — where ZHCs workers report being frightened to look for other work in case they are dropped by their employer.

‘A proposed new code of practice and proposed measures to improve transparency over ZHCs workers’ rights and contracts may prove more effective in this respect than a legislative ban on exclusivity.’