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Croydon Worker Challenges Zero Hours Contract

It has recently been reported that a Croydon worker left her job at Sports Direct in the Whitgift Centre when the financial stress of working under a zero hours contract became too much.

As a Croydon employment solicitor, I’m encountering zero hours contracts more and more frequently.

Zero hours contracts are contracts usually provided to casual workers where there is no guarantee of work, but the worker is expected to accept any work that is offered.

Although there is no legal obligation on the worker to accept the work, if they refuse the worker may suffer the consequences of being offered fewer hours or none at all.

Workers have very few rights under zero hours contracts. Most are found under the Working Time Regulations 1998 such the right to paid holidays, minimum rest breaks, and a maximum 48 hour working week. They are also entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 as well as the right not to suffer unlawful discrimination. They are entitled to very few family friendly rights and of course no right to claim unfair dismissal.

Zero hours contracts have traditionally been associated with temporary, seasonal employment. In this situation, they are a useful way of offering short term employment opportunities. For example, hiring catering staff for special one off events or for tourist attractions during the Summer season. Buckingham Palace are known to be a user of zero hours contracts.

But their use is controversial when associated with unstable, low paid employment. Since the recession these types of employment contracts have become increasingly popular with employers. Employers who are reluctant to take on employees can use these type of contracts so they have the reassurance of knowing that they have staff available when necessary without any liabilities including salary overheads.

The introduction of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 may also have increased their use amongst employers as agency staff must now be paid equivalent terms and conditions as permanent staff after 12 weeks in the assignment.

In the right environment zero hours contracts can be extremely beneficial to business and workers as they provide flexibility. However, due to concerns about these contracts being open to abuse, often with all the rights being on the employer’s side, a government consultation is expected to be announced later this year.

If you’re a Croydon business and require advice on a zero hours contract or any other type of contract for your employees, or you are a Croydon employee concerned about your employment status call our Croydon solicitors office on 0845 189 0152 to speak to a member of our employment team. We can arrange appointments in our Croydon office on Lansdowne Road, or provide advice over the phone.

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Susan Dennehy

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