Ministers to consider outlawing exclusivity on zero hours contracts

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Companies could be banned from imposing exclusivity on zero hours contracts which offer no guarantee of work and stop employees from working for another company, under new proposals announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable. These measures come as part of efforts to boost fairness for workers.

In a consultation launched today, the government will also outline proposals on ways to tackle the lack of transparency in the way zero hours contracts are currently being used and improve guidance for both employers and employees around their use.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“A growing number of employers and individuals today are using zero hour contracts. While for many people they offer a welcome flexibility to accommodate childcare or top up monthly earnings, for others it is clear that there has been evidence of abuse around this type of employment which can offer limited employment rights and job security. We believe they have a place in today’s labour market and are not proposing to ban them outright, but we also want to make sure that people are getting a fair deal.

“Our research this summer gave us a much needed insight into both the positive and negative aspects of zero hours contracts. Our consultation will now focus on tackling the key concerns that were raised, such as exclusivity clauses and how to provide workers with more protection. We don’t think that people should be tied exclusively to one employer if it unfairly stops them from boosting their income when they are not getting enough work to earn a living. We also want to give employees and employers more guidance and advice on these types of employment contracts.

“Employers need flexible workforces and people should have the choice in how they work. But this shouldn’t be at the expense of fairness and transparency.”

The 12 week public consultation will seek views on a range of proposals including:

Proposals to potentially ban the use of exclusivity clauses in contracts that offer no guarantee of work
New advice and guidance to improve transparency around the use of zero hours contracts for employers and employees
The launch of the consultation follows a fact-finding exercise that was carried out over the summer by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to explore how these contracts are currently being used.

The consultation will run until 13 March 2014.