Consultation over exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts launched

The government yesterday [25 August] launched a consultation aimed at identifying and closing any loopholes regarding exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts.

Tue, 26 Aug 2014 | By Sarah Marquet

 

The government yesterday [25 August] launched a consultation aimed at identifying and closing any loopholes regarding exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts.

These clauses effectively ban people on such contracts from taking jobs elsewhere even if offered no hours by their employers.

Domiciliary care and healthcare staffing service provider Allied Healthcare’s interim head of recruitment Mark Linden told Recruiter zero-hours contracts were not necessarily a bad thing, but they had been abused.

“Zero hours [contracts] are great for people that want the flexibility but there are some organisations out there that put all staff on zero hours and people just don’t know where they’re at; they can’t do any financial planning,” he said.

Allied Healthcare still uses zero-hours contracts but guarantees all staff on such contracts a certain amount of hours, 18 minimum a week, to give them the flexibility, but also financial security. [Editor’s note: Linden was recently named one of Recruiter’s 11 Most Influential In-House Recruiters for 2014 in the August issue of Recruiter.]

Linden welcomed the consultation, saying it was needed to “crack down on some people being unscrupulous”.

This round of consultation follows the government’s June announcement that it would ban the use of exclusivity clauses.

In announcing the consultation yesterday, business secretary Vince Cable said: “We are tightening the screws on rogue employers who try to abuse workers on zero-hours contracts. We are looking closely at any potential loopholes that could arise from a ban, to ensure that these are closed off and no one can get round the new law. We are also ensuring there is access to justice for workers treated unfairly.”

He went on to say evidence showed most zero-hours contracts had been used responsibly by many businesses for many years, “but unfortunately we know some abuse does take place”.

Labour shadow business secretary Chuka Umanna said the government’s measures to resolve zero-hours contracts do not go far enough.

“As well as ensuring that the terms and conditions of employees on zero hours are made clearer and that they are free to work for other employers, Labour would give employees the right to demand a regular contract if they are, in practice, working regular hours for a certain period, with an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after a period.”

Linden said any tightening of legislation around these contracts could potentially affect recruiters, but there was enough time before any changes came into affect to change business practices.

Views submitted during the consultation will help shape the zero hours contracts section of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.

Consultation via the government's website is open until 3 November.

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