Are Zero Hour Contracts Legal In Northern Ireland

Bob Roberts
• Friday, 30 October, 2020
• 13 min read

There is no legal definition of a zero -hours contract in either Northern Ireland or Great Britain employment law. There are concerns that individuals who work under zero -hours contracts have no protection under domestic employment law, or that they cannot be an employee.

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In addition, the inclusion of exclusivity clauses in some zero hours contracts is banned in GB since 26 May 2015. Asking an individual to work at very short notice, which does not allow them to plan ahead, e.g. to arrange childcare, could be problematic for them, causing tension or upset.

Work of a casual nature Work done in emergency situations Short-term relief to cover routine absences For example, where a member of staff in a care facility must accompany a resident to hospital at short notice, an appropriate substitute worker can be called in to cover under a zero -hours contract.

Similarly, schools maintain a panel of teachers to provide substitute cover for the unexpected absence of a regular member of the teaching staff. You must receive a minimum payment if you are called in to work but sent home without work (except in emergencies, exceptional circumstances or short-term relief, for example).

An employee under a zero -hours contract who works less than 25% of their potential hours in any week should be compensated. Alternatively, you could substitute the ERO hourly rate if this applies to your job.

This minimum payment rate does not apply if you are on call. Where your current employment contract does not accurately reflect the average hours per week that you actually work over a 12-month period, you are entitled to a banded contract.

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You can find more information in our document on the working week on how to request a banded hours contract and how to complain if you feel your request was unreasonably refused. You can enforce your legal rights by referring a dispute with your employer to the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Department has proposed a number of changes to provide better regulation and address some outstanding issues surrounding contracts that do not guarantee a minimum of hours. This is the same position that The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords, takes on such clauses.

In addition, the GB Bill enables anti-avoidance measures to be put in place (such as stopping employers from using one- hour contracts to get round the issue). An option still open to the Department is to introduce an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract that will allow zero -hours workers to move to a guaranteed hours' arrangement after a certain period of time.

There are concerns, as highlighted in the NIC VA response, that some workers may be unable to secure a fixed-hours arrangement via a right to request. However, DEL seem to be taking a proactive “twin-track” approach which will require employers to objectively justify the need to retain a zero -hours contract.

Improving clarity around social security entitlement is a necessity, especially when universal credit starts to come in to Northern Ireland. Universal credit provides a real-time assessment of claimants’ circumstances, but with problems surrounding its implementation as it is rolled-out in England making assurances around accessing benefits would help vulnerable workers on variable hours with income and budgeting.

Suitably, the Office for National Statistics has just released its latest data on contracts that do not guarantee a minimum of hours ”. Unfortunately, the sample size is too small for a reliable estimate of the number of contracts in Northern Ireland to be made, but statistics are available for the UK.

Based on UK-wide research, Dr Carry previously suggested that 28,000 people may be on zero -hours contracts in Northern Ireland. In a paper seen by Storming's Employment and Learning Committee, Dr Carry says that “an outright ban would have a disproportionate impact upon flexibility within the economy”.

Dr Carry told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster on Thursday that the proposals for Northern Ireland went further than the rest of the UK. “We are proposing a number of different measures of regulation of zerohourcontracts that don't presently exist, so we do realize it is an area of public concern,” he said.

The agreement can be bound in a multiplicity of ways, such as a verbal agreement, an employee handbook and or an offer letter but, a written contract setting out employment rights, roles and responsibilities is the best way to formulate this agreement. Save the legal rationale, a contract can manage expectations by outlining the roles and responsibilities of the Employer and the employee.

Contracts can help avoid misunderstandings and disputes in the workplace by clarifying the business relationships, agreements and rights of both parties. Northern Ireland recognizes three employment statuses which are an employee, a worker and self-employed.

As reflected in the UK Employment Appeals Tribunal in Pulse Healthcare Ltd v Care watch Care Services Ltd & ORS (2012), contracts must always reflect the true nature of the workforce. A fixed-term contract applies to employees that are employed for a fixed time or a temporary basis.

Whilst this is a time-consuming task, it is pivotal in mitigating disputes. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

In March 2015, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 received Royal Assent. On a date to be appointed, s. 153 of the Act will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996, so that exclusivity terms in zero -hours contracts will no longer be enforceable, and regulations may specify other circumstances under which employers may not restrict what other work zero -hours workers can do.

Your hours of work are not predetermined and will be notified to you on a weekly basis as soon as is reasonably practicable in advance by your store manager. Subway workers are also required, as a condition of employment, to waive their rights to limit their workweek to 48 hours.

The Workplace Employment Relations Survey conducted by the government of the UK in 2004 and 2011 shows that the proportion of workplaces that have some employees on zero -hours contracts has increased from 4% in 2004 to 8% in 2011. The survey found that larger companies are more likely to use zero -hours contracts.

British business leaders have supported them, stating that they provide a flexible labor market. They may suit some people such as retirees and students who want occasional earnings and are able to be entirely flexible about when they work.

Vince Cable, business secretary of the government, is considering closer regulation of the contracts but has ruled out a ban. Labor MPs Alison McGovern and Andy Sanford have campaigned to ban or better regulate the practice.

However, Cineworld, another leading cinema chain that also owns Picture house, has come under scrutiny for continuing to use the contract format, with the Ritzy living wage protests at London's Ritzy Cinema especially prominent. The Institute of Directors, a chartered organization of British business leaders, has defended the contracts as providing a flexible labor market, citing the lack of flexibility in Italy and Spain.

^ “Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015”, legislation.gov.UK, The National Archives, 2015 c. 26 ^ Unman, Phillip (8 September 2016). “More than 900,000 UK workers now on zero -hours contracts ".

Zero -hours contracts cover more than 1 m UK workers: Poll of more than 1,000 employers reveals controversial contract used far more widely in the UK than government data suggests”. Zero -hours contracts : 5.5 m Britons “are on deals offering little guaranteed work”: Unite survey finds 22% of workers employed by private firms are on contracts promising less than three hours a week”.

The government's refusal to address the growing scandal of zero -hours contracts is creating a sub-class of insecure and low-paid employment. “Pressure mounts on Sports Direct over zero -hours contracts : Unite demands meeting with company founder Mike Ashley over contracts that do not provide workers with set hours”.

Zero -hours contract figures were wrong, ONS admits”. “McDonald's offer staff the chance to get off zero -hours contracts ".

“Burger King and Domino's Pizza also using zero -hours contracts : British Retail Consortium calls on employers to act responsibly amid revelations about fast food chain workers”. ^ Neville, Simon; Matthew Taylor; Phillip Unman (30 July 2013).

“Buckingham Palace uses zero -hours contracts for summer staff: The 350 part-time workers deployed during summer opening of the royal family's London residence have no guaranteed work”. “Carbon and Every man cinema staff on zero -hours contracts ".

“Cineworld boss pledges to continue with zero -hours contracts ". The CBI says that labor market flexibility, including zero -hours contracts, supported job creation during the recent post-recession recovery.

Zero -hours contracts could be subject to new legislation, says Vince Cable: Business secretary says employer exclusivity is main issue for review, as figures show one million are on zero -hours deals”. “Every man cinema chain is next to drop zero -hours contracts ".

“Ritzy cinema living wage strike disrupts BFI London film festival”. ^ Archived 16 August 2014 at the Payback Machine ^ “Kiwis tied to zero hour contracts speak out”.

“The National Minimum Wage, earnings and hours in the domiciliary care sector” (PDF). Social Science Research Network (Working paper).

Penny cook, Matthew; Cory, Giselle; Lakes, Vichy (June 2013). “A Matter of Time: The rise of zero -hours contracts (PDF).

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