Over the course of the last several months this topic has been highly debated. A zero-hours contract can mean a number of things including a contract of employment under which the employee has no set hours, or merely an umbrella contract for a series of short-term employment assignments where there is no continuity of service.
There are several important legal and practical factors that should be borne in mind when considering whether to employ someone on a zero-hours contract. Firstly, an employer would need to assess the employment status of the person being engaged (are they a worker or employee?) and the different employment rights conferred depending on that status. Employers should ensure that they have adequate processes in place to deal with holiday pay, holiday entitlement and pensions as irregular and unpredictable working hours can make any calculations very difficult.
Employers may be disinclined to provide the same level of benefits to zero-hours as they would to full-time employees. Although there are no express guidelines preventing discrimination against zero-hours employees, it is likely that they will fall into the definition of part-time workers for the purposes of Employment Law. Therefore, any less favourable treatment as a result of their contractual status, could potentially lead to discrimination claims.
Zero-hours contracts are often unique and complex entities, therefore, it is important that appropriate legal advice is sought should you be considering using zero-hours contracts so that you do not fall foul of Employment Law.