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Is the writing on the wall for zero hours contracts?

Zero hours’ contracts are in the headlines once again, this time with the pub chain, JD Wetherspoon announcing that their staff will be given the chance to switch from the hugely unpopular contracts.

Wetherspoons currently employs 24,000 people on casual contracts but after the success of a trial switch to permanent contracts earlier in the year, the chain will now offer guaranteed hours to all their staff.

Not so fortunate are more than 18,000 casual employees at Sports Direct who have been told their switch to permanent contracts “cannot be implemented over night” and they may have to wait until the end of the year. 

There are a growing number of UK firms opting to make the switch to permanent contracts and the government has pledged to reduce the impact that zero hours’ contracts can have on workers.

At the moment, the zero hours’ contract, which is commonplace in the home care sector, leaves the employee without any entitlement to either holiday pay or sick pay. Employees don’t even know how many hours they will work each week, making it difficult for them to get a mortgage or a loan, and almost impossible for them to be able to budget effectively.

Sarah Naylor, specialist employment solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, said: “There has been some protection added for employees working under zero hours’ contracts, although there is still some way to go. These contracts remain legal, providing that they do not include an exclusivity clause that would prevent the employee from accepting work with another employer. These clauses have been ruled unfair and if an employer tried to enforce such a clause, the employee would have the benefit of being protected from unfair dismissal.”

A report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that around 903,000 workers are currently on zero hours’ contracts, a rise of 156,000 from last year.

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