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Zero hours contracts – exclusivity finally banned

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Zero hours contracts – exclusivity finally banned

This may have slipped under your radar …With all the excitement of the general election, an important piece of legislation recently managed to receive Royal assent and come in to law without a great deal of publicity.

The Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBEE 2015) was passed on 26 March. It covers various areas of law, such as insolvency, directors’ disqualification, public sector procurement, access to finance and also, employment. The bill is said to be aimed at helping small business to compete, get finance to create jobs and to grow, innovate and export. Like many pieces of legislation created by the 2010-2015 coalition government it aims to cut down red tape to ensure that businesses can get on and do business without being bogged down by regulation. For employment lawyers and pundits alike, the main headline is that the Act includes the long awaited banning of exclusivity in zero hours contracts.

During this election campaign there has been, of all employment topics, much discussion about zero hours and how inequitable they can be. In my view there is a real place for zero hours in the employment market because they offer flexibility both to employers and to those employees whose other commitments (child care, education etc) means that they would welcome more flexibility than a traditional permanent job. What is inequitable is the use of some zero hours contracts which seek to prohibit the employee from working for other organisations whilst engaged on that particular contract. The basis for a zero hours contract is that the employer can call upon the worker to work when there is a need and then when there is no work to be done they are not called upon. However to prevent a worker from then seeking work elsewhere is grossly unfair. It is therefore to be welcomed that exclusivity in zero hours contracts is banned by SBEE 2015. Draft regulations were published on 11 March 2015, the purpose of which is to protect individuals from unscrupulous employers who try to avoid the ban. We shall cover these regulations in the future blog posts.

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