Zero-hours contracts are double-edged. On the one hand they can provide much needed flexibility (meeting current seasonal Christmas demand for Santa and his elves, for example). On the other, their misuse by some employers has made them a PR pariah. They are dogged by controversy and blamed for exploiting vulnerable low-income, workers. However, one thing is for sure — zero-hours contracts generate a lot of confusion.

Key points to note:

  • Just calling an arrangement ‘zero-hours’ and issuing a contract labelling it as such is not conclusive.
  • Be clear what you want to achieve. If this is to engage the individual on an ad hoc, as required, basis then a zero-hours contract is likely appropriate. However, remember that zero-hours contracts work best when their flexibility benefits both parties.
  • Be clear on employment status from the start, both in the contract and working arrangements. This will provide certainty for both parties and less risk for the employer.
  • Regularly review working arrangements to check that the contract still reflects the reality of the working relationship and is not a ‘sham’.
  • In particular, check the impact of any changes to the working arrangements to employment status. If status has changed, amend the contract to reflect the new status (or issue a new contract).
  • Train managers to understand the different types of employment status and how to deal with staff accordingly.