Government launches consultation on zero-hours contracts

The government has launched a consultation into the use of zero-hours contracts, following public and Parliamentary concern over whether there is abuse of such employment contracts.

Its consultation is seeking ways to prevent any abuse and to maximise opportunities, both for employers seeking to create jobs and for individuals to get work that suits them. 

The government is seeking views on the following options:

  • Legislating to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in contracts that offer no guarantee of work.
  • Government issuing guidance on the fair use of exclusivity clauses.
  • Encouraging the production of an employer-led code of practice on the fair use of exclusivity clauses, with an additional option to seek government sponsorship of that code.
  • Rely on existing common law redress, which enables employees to challenge exclusivity clauses.

After considering the responses, the government will publish a formal response to the issues identified through this consultation, including information on what further action government intends to take.

Vince Cable, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, said: “Zero-hours contracts have been used responsibly in some sectors for many years.

“They can support business flexibility, making it easier to hire new staff and providing pathways to employment for young people. These contracts and other flexible arrangements give individuals more choice and the ability to combine their work with their other commitments.

“But this government has always been clear that we will address and crack down on any abuse or exploitation of individuals in the workplace. 

“The government therefore seeks to maximise the opportunities of zero hours contracts while minimising abuse and setting core standards that protect individuals.

“This consultation document sets out the issues we have identified so far, seeks further evidence and invites views on a range of potential actions government and employers can take.”

Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the Confederation of British Industry, added: “The government has recognised the important role that zero-hours contracts play in the UK labour market.

“These contracts have helped to save jobs through tough economic times and enabled organisations to respond rapidly to new opportunities over recent months.

Zero-hours contracts offer a choice to those who want flexibility in the hours they work, such as students, parents and carers, and provide a stepping stone into the jobs market for those most vulnerable to long-term unemployment.”