Employment Law Bulletin July 2014


The controversy that is zero-hours contracts rumbles on. Despite some calls for banning them, the government has issued its latest indication of support for these arrangements which it says have a place in the labour market.

It seems that zero-hours contracts (under which employees’ hours are not guaranteed) are here to stay – for now at least. But the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has announced that exclusivity clauses in these contracts which prevent employees from looking for work elsewhere will be outlawed. This is intended to clamp down on “less scrupulous” employers who have abused the system.

The problem is that it is a toothless ban. An employee who complains about an exclusivity clause can be sacked with no recourse. Before the ban, if there was an exclusivity clause, an employee who worked for another employer was in breach of contract and need not be offered more work by the old employer. After the ban, if there is an exclusivity clause, an employee who works for another employer is not in breach of contract any more (because the clause will be deemed void), and still need not be offered more work by the old employer – because it is still a zero-hours contract.

Zero hour contracts remain a hotly debated issue, at least in political circles. Some people think the balance of power remains too much in employers’ favour and that employees working under zero-hours contracts are unfairly abused by a proportion of employers. At the same time, however, it is recognised that these contracts are delivering work which might not otherwise be offered. Many employers will tell you that their workers like the flexibility that zero-hours contracts afford them.

We have probably not heard the last of this issue, but for the time being it is another case of a lot of hot air being vented, and little actually changing.


No reasonable adjustments needed for carers

Hainsworth v Ministry of Defence

It is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their association with someone who has a protected characteristic (gender, religion or race, for example). But where disability is concerned, is an employer under a duty to make reasonable adjustments in respect of that associated person? The Court of Appeal has said no.