Workers being asked to sign zero hour contracts should always take legal advice before they sign away employment rights, which could include redundancy pay, as well as the right to claim for unfair dismissal years’ down the line, a leading law firm warned today.
Figures from the ONS show a quarter of a million Brits are on zero hour contracts, while a review of the contracts by Business Secretary Vince Cable is already underway, after a report by the CIPD revealed the problem could be four times as widespread as previously thought.
Slater and Gordon Employment Lawyer Ivor Adair warned employees are often unaware of the extent to which zero hour contracts can impact their employment rights.
Ivor said, “Many casual workers are simply unaware that they are being asked or have already signed up to a working arrangement that means in the years ahead they will have no right to argue their dismissal is unfair, no right to a redundancy payment and even sometimes, no holiday pay. It may also mean no family friendly rights such as maternity leave and pay.
“Your contract is fundamental to how the law views your employment status and thus the rights you benefit from, or do not. There is no set zero hour contract, and generally it is a contract under which the employer is not obliged to provide a minimum amount of work, but the worker is obliged to be available for any work when it is offered.”
Since the amount of people signed up to these contracts has come to light many employers have defended the contracts saying that they are flexible and therefore benefit working mums.
But Ivor disagreed and warned that employees should not be taken with this argument. “One wonders how you are expected to plan your childcare where there is no obligation to provide you with work?
“For those of us who advise employees and follow these issues closely it does however feel like this is very much part and parcel of the larger issue of the continual weakening of employment rights and is further evidence of the exploitation of vulnerable workers under the ‘needs must’ banner. Zero hour contracts are ripe for scrutiny and criticism.”
Slater and Gordon are a nationwide law firm with 1,450 staff and 18 offices across London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Wakefield, Halifax and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.