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Retail ruling brings warning over zero hours

An employment law expert is warning businesses to ensure their zero hours contracts are up to date following a landmark legal ruling.

Businesses tend to use zero hours contracts to govern an arrangement between an employer and worker providing services on a casual or intermittent basis. These agreements are used to provide for a flexible workforce that can meet a temporary or changing need for staff.

It was recently reported that Sports Direct is updating the terms of its zero hours contracts for 20,000 staff after a claim was brought by a former member of staff.

The sports chain has apparently agreed to a number of changes to its zero hour contracts following a former worker’s claim for sex discrimination, unfair treatment and breach of holiday rights. The changes include making it clear that the contracts do not guarantee work, and setting out sick pay and holiday entitlements applicable to such workers.

Now Charlotte Nuttall, solicitor in the Employment team at Napthens, warns businesses that use these contracts to take note of this case and ensure their own contracts are as clear as possible.

Charlotte said: “Over the last 12 months the Government has revealed that there are a large number of employers who abuse the zero hours system, and is cracking down on their use.

“The main issue highlighted by the Government is that  many employers impose ‘exclusivity clauses’ which mean workers cannot take up paid work elsewhere, despite the fact they have no guarantee of work from the zero hours contracts. The Government is now seeking to legislate a ban on the use of these clauses.

“When used correctly, zero hours contracts provide flexibility and can have advantages for both parties. For example, there is no obligation for an employer to provide work, but equally workers do not have to accept the work offered.

“This latest ruling shows the importance of ensuring that zero hours contracts are drawn up in a way that ensures they are legally acceptable and not open to any misinterpretation, with everyone’s rights firmly and clearly laid out.”