Back in June 2014, the Government announced that it would be taking forward proposals to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts (ZHCs). It is now seeking views on how to stop employers potentially avoiding such a ban.
ZHCs do not guarantee any hours and an exclusivity clause in a ZHC is when the employer prevents the worker from working for someone else, even though he himself does not guarantee any hours of work.
A new section 27A will be inserted into the Employment Rights Act 1996, by the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014 (which is currently before Parliament), making exclusivity clauses in ZHCs unenforceable. This will be supplemented by a new section 27B allowing the Secretary of State to make further regulations dealing with anti-avoidance issues.
The consultation therefore seeks views on whether, how and when the power in section 27B should be used – the best mechanism for tackling avoidance of the exclusivity ban in ZHCs if felt necessary, as well as possible routes of redress for the worker. It has been suggested that it would be relatively simple for an employer to currently avoid an exclusivity ban by, for example, offering contracts that guarantee just one hour of work.
Specifically, the Government is asking for views on:
As regards further guidance, rather than one overarching code of practice, the consultation envisages industry-led and industry-owned sector-specific codes of practice on the fair use of ZHCs, as the reality of the situation is likely to be different in each business sector. While it will be up to unions and employer representatives to agree the content of such codes, the consultation suggests that the issues to cover could include:
The consultation runs until 3 November 2014.