Since their introduction in the UK, Zero Hour Contracts have been subject to controversy. We ask, are they necessarily a bad thing though? Well, the short answer is No, not if they suit your needs and expectations.
Here are five points we think you should know before considering one:
Zero Hour Contracts differ from Casual Work
The clue is in the word contract. Although there is no set amount of working hours, you are still entering into a legally binding agreement to be available for work week to week , though you are not actually guaranteed any work at any time. It goes without saying that no work equals no pay so you have no guaranteed income.
From an employer point of view, it permits them a level of flexibility in their workforce, particularly for businesses where trade may be seasonal. If you too are flexible, for example a retired person just seeking to top up their income from time to time this may work for you.
A zero hours contract may not work is if you are relying on a steady income of a certain amount, bearing in mind that the fact that you have entered into a contract of zero hours and that verbal promised hours per week and actual hours may not always be the same.
Planning your life around zero hour contracts may be difficult
The unpredictable nature of zero hours contracts makes it hard to plan life around them. This can prove hard for family life and your social life as it is often difficult to plan or to know if you will be available for a specific event or gathering.
They may lead to a better position longer term- It may be a case of short term pain, long term gain, as the experience you gain in the employment although on a zero hour contract, may lead to you being able to secure a contract better suited to your need in future.
Lack of Job Security
The lack of a secured number of hours can often bring with it financial insecurities in that you are not always guaranteed to be able to meet your financial commitments relying solely on your zero hours contract, particularly if you factor in that you could be dismissed at any time. This may also lead to stress and health related issues.
Contrary to popular belief, contractual entitlements such as accrued holiday pay and other statutory rights and protections included within fixed hours contracts are included within Zero Hour Contracts also.
The ability to turn down work at various times and be flexible works both ways. It can suit the employee as well as the employer. For example, a parent may be able to limit the number of hours that they take on around school holidays, so that they are able to spend time with their children, or indeed a student could agree to working double shifts during holiday periods, to boost their income.
Taking on a Zero Hour contract could well work for you, depending on what your needs and expectations are. What we would suggest though, is as well as taking our guidance on board, be sure to read the contract thoroughly and ensure that you are happy with what you are committing to before signing on the dotted line.