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Zero hours contracts

Zero Hours contracts common in the care industry

Zero hours contract workers lack clarity over employment rights says Acas paper

A report written for the Arbitration Conciliation and Advisory Service (ACAS) has highlighted the lack of awareness of employment rights for zero-hours contracts workers.

Based on an analysis of 70 telephone calls a week made to its helpline by employees and employers, the discussion paper ‘Give and Take? Unravelling the true nature of zero-hours contracts’ reveals a lack of clarity over employment status, and lack of awareness of employment rights to be one of “two broad themes”.

The first theme was a lack of clarity over employment status, and a lack of awareness of employment rights. The second reflected feelings both of fear about future earnings and that they were being treated unfairly, wrote Acas senior policy advisor and the paper’s author Adrian Wakeling.

Wakeling says: “There were numerous calls to the Acas helpline, for example, from both workers and employers unsure if people on zero-hours contracts are entitled to holiday leave and pay and how this is calculated.” Some workers on zero-hours contracts even believed they were permanent employees, he adds.

Acas chair Sir Brendan Barber added: “There appeared to be a lack of transparency on the terms of their contractual arrangements.”

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), anyone working on this flexible basis will have legal entitlements to:

• National Minimum Wage
• Automatic enrolment for pensions
• Statutory holiday pay
• Protection from unlawful discrimination
• Working time rights
• Protection from unlawful deductions from wages

Barber said that the sense of unfairness and mistrust went beyond the use of exclusivity clauses [which bar them from working for other employers].

“A lot of workers on zero-hours contracts are afraid of looking for work elsewhere,” Barber went on to say, “turning down hours, or questioning their employment rights in case their work is withdrawn or reduced. This deep-rooted ‘effective exclusivity’ can be very damaging to trust and to the employment relationship.