October 17 2013.

The government has announced measures to apply more fairness into the workforce for employees.

Zero hour contracts are typically drafted to maximise flexibility for the employee and employer and, used appropriately, are an efficient way for employers to manage their staff and time. But recent case law and an initial review on the subject is starting to question at what point a zero hour contract begins to entitle the employee to more than just the option to work. For example, when does an employer become legally or contractually responsible for the employee in terms of healthcare, maternity, sick leave and holiday entitlement?

Case law has determined that should the arrangements between an employer and employee be one that encompasses a mutual obligation then, regardless of what the zero hour contract states, that employee may be entitled to certain contractual rights and statutory protection. Employers should ensure that the employee is made aware that under a zero hour contract, the employer is under no obligation to offer work. Equally, there is no obligation on the employee to accept the work, if offered.

The government said it will launch a consultation on zero-hours contracts to tackle any abuses found.