Taylor reveals that the Acas helpline gets around 70 calls a week about zero hour contracts from both employers and workers and says: “Flexibility in the employment relationship can be desirable for both employers and employees/workers, but this can also bring unpredictability and uncertainty on both sides. Firstly, the nature of the employment status under zero hour contracts is often not well understood, leading to a lack of clarity about the rights and responsibilities that apply.”
He explains that another issue has been “exclusivity clauses” – where the contract seeks to prevent the worker from taking on a second job even where there is no guarantee of work – but that such clauses have now been made unlawful by the recent Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. A related problem is the sense of ‘effective exclusivity’ that some can feel when employed on a zero hour contract.
Taylor says: “We’ve found that in some cases people on these contracts can be worried that if they turn down shifts, or raise a concern in work, then their manager may give them less or no shifts, which is also known as ‘zeroing down’… this can lead to a lack of confidence and ultimately may lead to less engaged and committed workers/employees.
“Zero hour contracts can be one option for SME’s looking to build growth while keeping down costs and maximising flexibility. But there are also other factors to consider around the use of these arrangements and how they fit with building a skilled and committed workforce for sustainable business success. Employers should consider all the relevant factors when deciding which type of contractual arrangement is the most suitable to offer in their own circumstances.”
In tomorrow’s instalment of the Zero Hour series, we find out the top tips for managing zero hour contracts in SMEs…