• Lee Calver
  • 27 May 2015

Zero hours exclusivity clause ban now in effect

As of yesterday, under a provision in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, employers who do not guarantee staff any hours of work, but prevent them from working for another employer, could face legal ramifications.

The ban on the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts, which was first proposed by the outgoing Coalition Government, is now in force after a lengthy public consultation.

Prior to yesterday, employers were not banned from seeking exclusivity from an individual as this was deemed a contractual issue between the employer and individual. However, it is now a legal offence to prevent workers on zero-hour contracts from pursuing other employment after 83% of respondents to the Government’s consultation voted in favour of a ban on exclusivity clauses.

Commenting, Minister of State for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Nick Boles, said:

“Exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts prevent people from boosting their income when they have no guarantee of work.

“Banning these clauses will give working people the freedom to take other work opportunities and more control over their work hours and income. It brings financial security one step closer for lots of families.”

International Workplace’s Tar Tumber added:

“It’s great that some two months after they claimed exclusivity clauses had been banned, the Government has now outlawed this practice, making it illegal for employers from preventing staff on zero hours contracts (ZHC) to work for another organisation when no work is available with them. The concept of zero hours has always been riddled with controversy, but in my view, this has been due to confusion on what they are, and importantly, down to the unethical practices employed by some businesses.

“Where ZHCs have been used ethically, they have provided a flexible workforce option for employers and flexible working option for the staff. The ban on exclusivity clauses simply adds to the attraction of using them from both a business perspective and a staff point of view. However, the Government also needs to provide detailed guidance on what ‘anti-avoidance’ measures it will put in place as employers will no doubt look for ways around the ban. The extensive consultation on ZHCs led by Vince Cable in 2014 identified a number of ways employers may seek to do this, including a possible introduction of ‘one-hour contracts’. The Government has stated that zero hour workers will have the right not to suffer any detriment on the grounds that they have performed work for another employer, and if they do suffer, then they will have the right to complaint to Tribunal.

“A good move all round I say – let’s just hope this is communicated to everyone involved in plain English so that ‘confusion’ is not used as an excuse for more unethical practice.”