by Lara Murray
Since the end of May, exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts have been unlawful. Exclusivity clauses occur when an employer prevents casual staff from working for another employer, despite there not being a guarantee of work.
The ban was a key feature of the employment law reforms contained in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, which came into force two months after the Act received Royal Assent on 26 March. This was one of the last pieces of legislation to become an Act of Parliament before the dissolution of Parliament, prior to the general election on 7 May.
Lara Murray, Associate Solicitor at Palmers said: “The major issue with exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts was that they prevented people from boosting their income, even when they had no guaranteed work. By banning these clauses, the Government has effectively given working people the opportunity to take on other jobs in an attempt to become more financially secure.”
However, when the Coalition Government published its response to the consultation on the exclusivity ban back in March 2015 it confirmed that secondary legislation would be introduced in order to create a level of protection for zero-hours contract workers who take jobs under other contracts. Furthermore, a minimum income level – below which exclusivity clauses will be unenforceable – was to be established. Although draft regulations were included in the response document, this secondary legislation has not yet been brought into force, meaning that there are currently no anti-avoidance measures attached to the new provisions.
“Until these anti-avoidance measures are in place, the ban will not create any meaningful protection for zero hours workers,” added Lara. “There is a need to improve information, advice and guidance for zero hours workers so as to eradicate the confusion surrounding their rights, working time and holiday pay. Until clear guidance and information is available, people on zero hours contracts should seek professional advice on anything of which they are unsure.”
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