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Zero Hour Contracts - Penalties for Exclusivity Clauses

Comment from Brabners TEAM Legal Service Provider - This week new Regulations, in the form of The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015, have come into force to regulate the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts. Whilst exclusivity clauses in zero hour contracts have been prohibited since May 2015, the new Regulations provide a means through which a worker/employee can now enforce this prohibition.

A zero hour contract is a contract whereby there is no guarantee that the employer will offer any work, but the worker/employee is expected to accept any work that is offered to them. In this context, an exclusivity clause is a contractual clause which prohibits the worker/employee from working for anyone other than the employer, despite the fact that that employer might not have offered them any work.

In relation to employees, the Regulations provide that if the principle reason for the dismissal of an employee on a zero hour contract is that they breached a contractual exclusivity clause which prohibited them from working for another employer, then that dismissal will be automatically unfair. Therefore, the Regulations enable employees under a zero hour contract to work for other employers, which removes the effect of an exclusivity clause in a zero hour contract in circumstances where no work is offered by the employer to the employee, as although there would still be a breach of the exclusivity clause, the employee can longer be fairly dismissed for that breach.

In relation to workers, the Regulations have a similar effect in that they provide it is unlawful to submit a worker to detriments if they decide to work for a different employer in breach of an exclusivity clause.

The Regulations provide that there is no requisite qualifying period for an employee or worker to bring such a claim for unfair dismissal. This is in comparison to normal qualifying period for an unfair dismissal claim of two years’ continuous service. A successful claim could result in an award for compensation.