Are Zero Hour Employees Entitled To Redundancy

Danielle Fletcher
• Friday, 15 January, 2021
• 8 min read

The word “unprecedented” has been in almost constant use during the pandemic to describe the unending wave of new situations and circumstances that we have been confronted by. The furlough scheme, a new concept in itself, has raised its fair share of hitherto, unheard of circumstances and scenarios.

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But in some circumstances that doesn’t seem fair, and we think it’s potentially open to a Tribunal claim as it might be argued that those workers should have been offered redundancy. We think the safest approach is to put at risk all employees who fall into the redundancy pool, regardless of their contract type.

Equally, if you have just a few or a single zero -hours position that bears no similarity to any jobs that are being made redundant, then you may be able to justify bringing these employees back on their zero hours terms. The government has provided a number of means of financial support to businesses unable to operate because of Covid-19, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

However, others, including zero hours contract workers, have found themselves unemployed or without work and been forced to claim benefits to survive. But now, a number of employers have announced plans to make staff redundant and economists expect the unemployment rate to go up to 10%.

There a number of ways for selecting staff for redundancy, but some can have a bigger effect on zero hours contract workers. By length of service Some employers may look at how long you have worked with them. You are entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you are an employee and have been employed for at least two years.

But it's a blanket phrase to describe many casual agreements between individuals and their employer. With that in mind, a zero hours contract usually involves an employer not being able to guarantee the individual any hours of work, nor a set working pattern.

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The right to work no more than 48 hours on average per week. The right to opt out of only working 48 hours on average per week.

Statutory minimum length of rest breaks. Whichever status your staff have in your agreement with them, the relevant rights from above apply.

Hiring a worker can be great for both parties when you don't have a constant demand for staff. Special events like weddings, functions, and business expos.

In jobs where health & safety is a concern, such as a lifeguard or security officer, having workers to call up in the case of staff absence is essential. Cineworld's workers on zero -hours contracts in the UK could be left without pay beyond Thursday after the cinema chain confirmed it will temporarily close its 127 sites in Britain this week, putting 5,500 jobs at risk.

If you are an employee, you are entitled to statutory redundancy pay as long as you have been working for the company for two years or more. “Usually in the case of zero -hours contracts the individual will be considered a worker,” says Matt Ginger, an employment lawyer.

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If you are an employee and have been working for the employer for at least two years, you will be entitled to statutory redundancy pay at the minimum. Staff on zero -hours contracts were eligible for furlough and do qualify for the chancellor’s job support scheme, which starts on 1 November.

Given that zero -hours contracts offer employers the opportunity to call people in only when they need them, there seems to be no incentive for them to use the job support scheme. Cineworld's employees first found out that their jobs were under threat via media reports on Saturday evening.

On Monday afternoon employees had not received communication about their pay for the next month, according to workers who asked to remain anonymous because the terms of redundancy had not been settled. Cineworld’s cinemas are generally run by a small team of salaried managers and a larger group of workers whose contracts give them no guaranteed hours of work.

The chain will also shut more than 500 US cinemas, and a total of 45,000 UK and US workers are expected to be made redundant once contractors, such as cleaners and security guards are included. It is understood workers may be encouraged to reapply for jobs once the cinemas reopen, but there is no clear timeline for that to happen.

In most instances, working under a fixed term contract means the employer must treat you in the same way as a comparable permanent employee, but whether you’re entitled to claim redundancy depends on the length of time you’ve worked for that employer. When a fixed term contract comes to an end and is not renewed, this may be because the project is complete and there are no other business reasons to continue.

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If you’ve worked for this employer for two years or more on a continuous basis, you are entitled to the same redundancy benefits as permanent members of staff. This also applies if you’ve worked under contracts of shorter duration for the same employer, and they continued without a break.

As with fixed term employees, you may be eligible for redundancy pay and other statutory entitlements on a zero hours contract if you’ve worked continuously for your employer for two years or more. Zero -hours contracts are for people who work on a casual or temporary basis, and are willing to make themselves available when required.

Despite the government’s ban on exclusivity clauses, the only remedy currently available to zero -hours workers is extremely limited and rarely exercised with much success. Some contracts continue to lack transparency and do not make it clear in plain English that no minimum hours are guaranteed.

By definition, the contracts provide workers with uncertain levels of earnings. Despite the hopes of some that it would contain concrete action to tackle the perceived one-sided flexibility of zero -hours contracts, the government chose not to ban such contracts on the basis that the flexibility they offer does benefit some workers and a ban would “impact more people than it would help”.

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