Lawyer salary

I am a labor lawyer and these are your rights if you have a zero hours contract

ZERO hour work contracts have become more common in recent years, but experts warn they don’t mean you have no rights.

There were over 900,000 people on zero hour contracts in the UK in 2021.


Seasonal workers, such as those working in hotels, often have zero-hour contractsCredit: Getty

But what are your rights if you work on one of these contracts?

It is important to know what you are entitled to in terms of sick pay, holidays and whether your employer can dismiss you without notice.

Whatever your role, be sure to get your contract in writing – so you and your employer know the terms of your employment before you start.

The rights of contingent workers came under intense scrutiny last year when Uber drivers won a historic court battle to force the company to recognize them as ‘workers’ rather than independent contractors. .

Uber said the drivers were not “committing to work” for the company but were “independent third-party contractors.”

But the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that Uber drivers were workers and as such entitled to workers’ rights.

Stephen Moore, partner and head of employment at law firm Ashfords, explains what a zero hours contract means.

What is a zero hour contract?

If you have a zero-hours contract, your employer doesn’t have to provide you with a minimum number of hours of work per week, Stephen explains.

Instead, you are employed and get work on an ad hoc basis.

“There has been a move away from calling them zero-hour contracts because of potential negative associations, and calling them flex-time contracts,” says Stephen.

“These types of contracts are more common in certain industries. For example, in the hospitality industry, as employers need the flexibility to bring in workers on short notice to work particular hours.”

How will I be paid?

Workers on zero-hour contracts are only paid for the hours worked.

This means that the amount you earn each week or each month can vary greatly depending on the amount of work your employer can offer you.

If you work in an industry like hospitality or construction, you may find that the work is seasonal.

No matter how many hours you work, you should be paid the right amount for them.

The National Minimum Wage is the lowest statutory rate of pay for UK workers, and what you get depends on your age.

It was announced last year that the National Living Wage (paid to people aged 23 and over) would be cut from £8.91 an hour to £9.50, giving many workers a pay rise of £1,000 per year.

Am I still entitled to breaks?

“People working on zero-hours contracts are still entitled to breaks, which take effect after a certain time under working time regulations,” says Stephen.

These state that workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of 20 minutes during their working day, if they work more than six hours a day. It can be a tea or lunch break.

The break does not have to be paid – it depends on the employment contract.

Workers are also entitled to 11 hours of rest between working days.

So if, for example, you finish work at 8 p.m., you should not return to work until at least 7 a.m. the next day.

In addition to this, you should have at least 24 uninterrupted hours without work every week and 48 uninterrupted hours without work every fortnight.

Can I take a vacation?

Workers on zero-hour contracts accumulate leave based on the number of hours worked, just like people on open contracts.

“Sometimes employers add the value of your vacation to your rate of pay, or you can accrue vacation that has to be taken at some point,” says Stephen.

“As with most things, you should check your employment contract as the exact terms vary.”

Am I entitled to a payment if I don’t feel well?

“You rarely find a flexible contract with sick pay rights. Instead, it comes down to the statutory scheme,” says Stephen.

If you feel unwell, your employer is legally obliged to pay you £96.35 a week. If you are too sick to work, paid for up to 28 weeks.

This is available as long as you have earned £120 per week (before tax) working for them in the previous eight weeks.

But you’re very unlikely to qualify for extra help on a zero-hours contract, adds Stephen.

What about other rights?

“You also have other statutory rights, such as maternity pay and pensions,” says Stephen.

If you’re over 22 and earning more than £6,240 a year, you should automatically be enrolled in a pension scheme.

If you are under 22 and earn more than this amount, you can apply to join.

This means that part of your salary is deducted to go towards a pension and your employer can also contribute to the pot, although you can opt out if you wish.

And if you are expecting a baby, you will be entitled to the statutory maternity allowance (SMP) whatever your contract.

SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks and you will receive 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks, then £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. weeks.

Can I be fired from a zero hour contract?

.Depending on the type of contract you have and the regularity of the work, you may also have additional rights.

Stephen says: “If you have worked there for more than two years, you have the right to file a wrongful dismissal complaint if you believe you have been unfairly dismissed.

“It also means that the employer can fire you, but must give you a valid reason.”

He points out that due to the nature of zero hour contracts, employers will often stop offering you work.

But you must receive notice before your employment ends.

The legal notice periods for dismissal are:

  • at least one week notice if you have been employed between one month and two years
  • one week notice per year if employed between 2 and 12 years
  • 12 weeks notice if employed for 12 years or more

Your employer can give you more than the legal minimum, but they can’t give you less.

Can I stop whenever I want?

The same time limits apply if you want to postpone your notice, but you can ask your employee to reduce your notice period.

You also have the option to simply stop accepting work, as zero-hour contracts do not specify a minimum number of working hours.

Shocking footage shows a man drinking a bottle of champagne while driving his work van

We pay for your stories!

Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team?