Typically, if you have a 'zero hours' contract, it will state that your employer is not obliged to offer you any work – and, equally, you are not obliged to accept it.
Typically, if you have a 'zero hours' contract, it will state that your employer is not obliged to offer you any work – and, equally, you are not obliged to accept it. Your 'written statement of employment particulars' might describe your hours as 'zero', 'hours to be agreed' or 'casuals as required'. A 'short hours' contract offers, for example, three hours a week rather than zero.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that many people on zero hours contracts work around 25 hours a week. If you are able to demonstrate that your working pattern has been one of regular hours over a long period, an Employment Tribunal may rule that your true contractual hours are the ones you have actually been working.
If you have a zero hours contract, your rights depend on whether you are deemed to be an employee or a worker. The major problem is that the employer has a large degree of power, and can simply choose not to offer you work. But most people on zero hours contracts should qualify for at least the basic statutory worker rights. Once you have accepted work, there is a legal contract to provide a service for the length of your shift, and for the employer to pay you for working it.
Many employment rights apply only to people with continuous employment. However, some do not – such as most claims for automatically unfair dismissal and trade union-related rights.
If you have a zero or short hours contract, you may be entitled to rights under the Part-time Workers Regulations 2000, which define a part-time worker as any 'whose hours are less than those of a full-time worker'. In particular, you have the right to be treated 'no less favourably' than your full-time colleagues who are doing the same job as you when it comes to pay and holidays. To succeed with a claim, you must be able to identify a real, full-time comparator who does the same or broadly similar work and is based at the same establishment.
If you are an agency worker on a zero hours contract, you have rights under the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 (see 'Agency workers').
It is now unlawful for any contract term in a zero hours contract to attempt to prevent a worker working elsewhere without the employer's consent.