27 August 2014

Business Secretary Vince Cable is worried that a minority of unscrupulous employers may attempt to circumvent his plans to ban exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts (ZHCs).

He has therefore called on business, unions and individuals to help identify and close potential loopholes such as offering contracts that could, for example, guarantee just one hour of work.

"The evidence shows that the vast majority of ZHCs have been used responsibly by many businesses for many years," Dr Cable said, "but unfortunately we know that some abuse does take place. This is why we are bringing in new laws to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in these contracts, which currently stop employees getting other jobs if they need to top up their income."

He was speaking as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) introduced a public consultation into exclusivity clause ban avoidance.

Available at http://bit.ly/1tvvQDH, the consultation is open for comments until 3 November 2014, after which it is anticipated that the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will be amended by inserting a new section into the Employment Rights Acts 1996.

This would provide the Secretary of State with power to allow for avoidance of the ban to be dealt with via secondary legislation. The consultation seeks views on whether, how and when that power should be used and the possible routes of redress.

The Government has also announced that business representatives and unions will work together to develop sector-specific codes of practice to help guide the fair use of zero hours contracts.

From Paul Clarke, business writer for Croner