Cautious welcome for ‘zero hours’ review

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A Lancashire employment lawyer has given a cautious welcome to the news of the Labour Party’s announcement that it would introduce legislation to limit so-called ‘zero hour’ contracts.

Such contracts of employment usually exist in service industries and mean employers have a pool of on-call staff to choose from, but staff have no guarantee of work.

Trade unions have called the contracts exploitative, and now Ed Miliband has announced that, if in government, Labour would introduce changes meaning workers can demand a regular fixed hours contract from their employer if they have worked for them for more than six months.

Also, a fixed hours contract would come into force automatically if a staff member has worked for the same business for more than a year.

But Kimberley Barrett-St.Vall, solicitor in the employment team at law firm Napthens, has urged caution over the changes, warning it will still be possible to circumvent the proposed new rules.

She said: “In my experience zero hour contracts have usually been used where it is mutually beneficial for both parties.

“I have not come across a situation where they were being used to exploit a member of staff, and it’s important to remember that if an individual does work for the same employer in a regular pattern of employment, corresponding rights against unfair dismissal are likely to exist in any event.

“Under the proposals there is nothing to stop a business laying off a member of staff before the requisite time periods have been reached so they would be no better off.”