You’ve done it; you’ve taken the plunge and accepted a job that’s on a zero-hours contract (ZHC).
What next? Although there are a number of disadvantages related to these kinds of contracts, the employer doesn’t hold all the power.
It’s vital to understand that a ZHC doesn’t mean zero rights for you, the worker. Check out what your rights are:
1. It’s off to work you go – if it suits:
A worker on a ZHC is under no obligation to accept work when asked. Although you may be ‘on call,’ the employer has no power to make you work. However, it’s worth noting that some companies may offer you less work or none at all if you refuse to do particular shifts. Tread carefully!
Like any other employee you’re entitled to your share of paid holidays, but you have to accumulate holiday hours in advance of taking them – you can take unpaid holidays whenever! Beware, the irregular working patterns of ZHCs can make it more difficult to calculate and accrue annual leave. With that in mind, it’s important to always keep a note of the hours you’ve worked, that way there’s no risk of you losing out on holidays. You’ve got the power… if you jot down your hours!
3. Free, but not so easy:
It wasn’t always the case, but those on ZHCs are no longer tied down to one company. Thanks to new regulations introduced in May 2015, employers can no longer prevent workers from seeking or accepting work elsewhere. So if you encounter any clause in a ZHC that tries to ban you from doing this, ignore it! Although, again, do be wary that some employers may look upon this unfavourably and give you less hours.
4. It pays to know:
Companies are required to pay the National Minimum Wage to workers on ZHCs, and you are entitled to claim work-related travel expenses.
5. Take notice:
Do you want the good news or the bad news? Ok, well the good news is that you don’t have to give a notice period on a ZHC – although maybe give them a week if you’re wanting a reference and to leave on good terms! Unfortunately, the bad news is that an employer can terminate your ZHC without any notice.