What Are Zero Hour Contracts

Zero Hour Contracts have been in the media a lot this year; there are a lot of opinions about them, some for and some against. Some politicians are trying to rally support by either supporting zero hour contracts or fighting against them.

But with such strong opinions regarding these type of contracts, it is sometimes difficult to separate opinion from fact. Like most things zero hour contracts are not entirely one-sided as some people claim they are. This article will explain clearly and concisely just what zero hour contracts are and how the benefit some employers and employees and how they can potentially harm some employers and employees.

What is A Zero hour Contract?

A Zero Hour Contract is an agreement between an employer and employee for work and employment. Much like a standard contract for work, these contracts have terms which must be met by both parties for the contract to continue. If these terms are breached, then there are potential legal consequences.

The main difference between a zero hour contract and a regular contract is the terms regarding hours of work. Under a regular employment contract, an employer will contract an employee to work a certain number of hours each week or month. Regardless of the amount of work that needs doing the employee will always be assured of having X amount of hours each week or month.

Zero hour contracts do not have this term, with a zero hour contract thee is no obligation on the part of the employer to provide work, and there is no obligation on the part of the employee to accept work.

For employees, this means there is no guarantee of work from one week to the next. One week you could get a lot of work then the following week you may get no work. But it also means that if there is work you can refuse it without facing any detriment. You can’t lose your job for saying no to work.

For employers, this means you can have a large on-call workforce who you only have to pay when there is work available. So if your business is not always regular, you do not have to pay a labour force when there is nothing for them to do. But it also means that if at one point you find your business has a lot of work needing doing you might not have any employees to call upon as they have the right to refuse the work if they choose to.

Zero Hour Contracts In a Nutshell

Under a Zero Hour, Contract employees have the same employment rights as regular workers under a work contract. Employees are entitled to annual leave, the national minimum/living wage and pay for work related travel.

Although if they have an extended period without work, it will count as a break in their employment so this will affect rights that accrue over time.

It was made illegal in May 2015 for employers to put exclusivity clauses in your contract.

LawCat Definition: Exclusivity Clauses were provisions that said you could not work for more than one employer. So the employer did not have to offer you work, but they could stop you working for anyone else. In May 2015 this was ruled as too restrictive and unfair to employees.

LawCat Tip: If you sign a Zero Hours Contract make sure you read it carefully if there is a clause in there that says you cannot work for another employer then this is an unconstitutional provision.


In conclusion, there are a lot of strong opinions regarding Zero Hour Contracts but when looked at it is apparent that they have both pros and cons for both employers and employees. They do offer a high degree of flexibility for both employers and employees, but they do not offer any security to either party.

It is easy to see how the employer could be seen to be in the stronger position as most of us need regular work to earn a living, so it is unlikely that work will be turned down. But the risk is still present if an employee has several jobs on offer they can pick and choose which to take and this puts an employer at risk of not having the workforce on hand when it is needed most.

A Zero Hour Contract may not be the right fit for everyone but for someone looking for work to fit into a busy schedule or for an employer where the level of work often fluctuates then they can be ideal.

Want to know more?

Find out more about Zero Hour Contracts here.