Zero-hours contracts: understanding the law

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Zero-hours contracts: understanding the law

Published November 2013

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This guide, produced in collaboration with law firm Lewis Silkin, is designed to help employers ensure that they are using zero-hours contracts responsibly and understand the legal issues surrounding them.

It also includes information and key points for employees/workers to help them understand their employment status and rights under different types of zero-hours arrangements.

Organisations considering using zero-hours contracts should think carefully about the business rationale for doing this, including whether there are other types of flexible working or employment practices that would deliver the same benefits. In the CIPD’s view zero-hours contracts work best when the flexibility that they provide works for both the employer and the individual.

If zero-hours contracts are identified as the best option, employers need to be clear about what type of arrangements will suit them and what this means in terms of their responsibilities as an employer and the employment rights of the individuals engaged in this way.

'Because "zero-hours contract" does not have a specific meaning in law, it is
important for employers to ensure that written contracts contain provisions
setting out the status, rights and obligations of their zero-hours staff.'

Contents of the guide

  • Introduction
  • What is a zero-hours contract? 
  • Employment status: the big three 
  • Summary of legal rights and protections 
  • The pros and cons of status 
  • How to decide what contract to use 
  • Difficult issues: exclusivity, holiday pay, National Minimum Wage, Statutory Sick Pay
  • Summary
  • Appendix: Case law examples

Read the research report: Zero-hours contracts: myth and reality