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Website URL : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5046

Acas response to Government consultation on zero hours contracts reveals that employers could find ways to avoid a ban on exclusivity clauses

Thursday 06 November 2014

Acas has published its response to the Government's consultation on banning exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts today.

Evidence from Acas' analysis of calls to its helpline discovered that some employers could find ways to circumvent the ban on zero hours exclusivity clauses announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills earlier this year.

Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber, said:

"Our analysis revealed that it could be relatively straightforward for employers to get around a ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

"For example, an employer could reduce or stop offers of work to those who take an additional job. Workers might be discouraged from taking on an additional job because they are concerned that their work opportunities will be reduced if they do.

"We believe that the Government proposals for regulations that require employers to pay compensation to these victims could be effective in protecting these workers."

Acas' discussion paper Give and take? Unravelling the true nature of zero-hours contracts looked at research around zero hours contracts as well as employers and employees who called the Acas helpline about these contracts. On average there were 70 calls a week about zero hours contracts to the helpline.

Acas' research revealed that many workers on a zero hours contract feel excluded from the sense of security, fairness and trust that's associated with contracts of employment with guaranteed hours.

Brendan Barber added:

"Our analysis revealed that many workers on zero hours contracts experience a deep sense of unfairness and mistrust that go beyond the use of exclusivity clauses.

"A lot of workers on zero hours contracts are afraid of looking for work elsewhere, turning down hours, or questioning their employment rights in case their work is withdrawn or reduced. This deep rooted 'effective exclusivity' can be very damaging to trust and to the employment relationship.

"There also appeared to be a lack of transparency on the terms of their contractual arrangements. Many people did not seem to even know that they were on a zero hours contracts and some believed they were on a permanent contract due to the length of their service."

Acas also announced that it is developing further guidance for employers and workers, to help tackle problems relating to lack of awareness and clarity regarding zero hours contracts. Current Acas advice on zero hours contracts can be viewed at: www.acas.org.uk/zerohours.

To see the full Acas Council response, visit: www.acas.org.uk/consultations.

Notes to editors

  1. The Acas Policy Discussion Paper Give and take? Unravelling the true nature of zero-hours contracts is available from the Acas website at: www.acas.org.uk/policydiscussion
  2. Acas undertook an analysis of calls to the Acas Helpline on the issue of zero hours contracts between June to August 2013. It showed that:
    - around seven out of ten of these calls (68 per cent) were from employees;
    - over eight out of ten calls (83 per cent) were about work in the private sector;
    - six out of ten calls were from organisations employing fewer than 250 people; and
    - the explicit use of exclusivity clauses did not emerge as a significant concern but the feeling of 'effective exclusivity' emerged as a major concern amongst callers.
  3. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. We aim to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. We help with employment relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law. For more information, see About us.
  4. The Acas Council response to the previous Government consultation on zero hours contracts can be viewed at: www.acas.org.uk/consultations
  5. For media enquiries or to receive an embargoed copy of the Acas Council response to the Government's consultation on banning exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts please contact Shumon Rahman on 0207 210 3688 or srahman@acas.org.uk. For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.