Cable asks bosses to help close zero-hours "loopholes"

29 August 2014 -


Business secretary aims to develop workable measures that would prevent unfair treatment of employees with no guaranteed hours

Matt Packer

Firms have been invited to come up with ways of banning bosses from tying zero-hours workers to specific companies. A consultation launched this week by business secretary Vince Cable is seeking views from unions, employees and the private sector on workable measures that would prevent managers from exploiting “potential loopholes” in current employment law.

Exclusivity clauses in the zero-hours field have come in for heavy criticism in recent months, because they prevent staffers from making up their time (and money) elsewhere – even if their employers can only guarantee meagre hours. Following a government announcement in June that it would stamp out these clauses, Cable has set his sights on developing airtight regulations that would safeguard employees’ interests. In particular, it is asking whether the government should take pre-emptive steps, such as by introducing civil penalties to help workers seek justice, if they felt they were being treated unfairly as a result of finding extra work.

Cable said: “We are tightening the screws on rogue employers who try to abuse workers on zero-hours contracts. We are looking closely at any potential loopholes that could arise from a ban, to ensure that these are closed off and no one can get round the new law. We are also ensuring there is access to justice for workers treated unfairly.”

In November last year, research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that zero-hours workers were broadly content with their arrangements – for example, 65% of the 1,000-strong study sample reported they were happy with their work-life balance, as opposed to 58% of full-time employees. However, shortcomings did emerge from the research, with 40% of the respondents saying that shifts they had planned to do were cancelled with little or no notice.

Cable added: “The evidence shows that the vast majority of zero-hours contracts have been used responsibly by many businesses for many years, 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 zero-hours contracts, which currently stop employees getting other jobs if they need to top up their income.”

He stressed: “We want to give individuals the chance to find work that suits their individual circumstances while also giving employers the confidence to hire and create new jobs.”

The consultation is open until 3 November. Find all the details here.

For more on these issues, check out this CMI Checklist book on how to work effectively with the HR department.

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