12 January 2016

Having seen the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act into law before he left office last May, the then Business Secretary Vince Cable may have thought that he had dealt with the problem of exclusivity terms in zero-hours contracts.

The Act made provision for banning the use of these clauses, by which some employers were stopping workers on zero-hours contracts from exploiting the flexibility they offered by also working for someone else.

The incoming Government acted quickly and, by 26 May 2015, a ban on the use of such clauses was indeed in force.

However, ministers had been alerted, during a public consultation into the proposed ban, to the fact that it would be relatively easy for employers to avoid the new restriction by, for example, reducing the hours offered to those who chose to perform other work.

That this threat was taken seriously is clear from the inclusion in the consultation document of draft regulations aimed at tackling any avoidance measures.

It was 14 December 2015 before the Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 were finally published and, with a 28-day implementation period, they came into force this week (11 January 2016).

Available here, the new regulations make provision in relation to the right for individuals on a zero-hours contract not to be unfairly dismissed or subjected to a detriment for a reason relating to a breach of a provision of such a contract.

Remedies, including compensation, will be available by way of proceedings in employment tribunals. It should be noted that, in general, any claim must be brought within three months of the act or failure to act to which the complaint relates.