Zero-hours contracts

Zero-hours contracts can be a flexible option for both employers and workers. For example, if the work is not constant or is 'as and when'.

If you have a zero-hours contract:

  • your employer does not have to give you any minimum working hours
  • you do not have to take any work offered

Types of work that might use zero-hours contracts include:

  • bank work (for example, for the NHS)
  • casual hours (for example, students who only work during holidays)
  • care work
  • delivery driving
  • gig economy work (for example, delivering takeaway food or giving car rides)
  • hospitality work
  • warehouse work

Your rights under a zero-hours contract

By law, if you have a zero-hours contract, you have the right to:

Depending on your contract and circumstances, you might have more rights. So it's a good idea to check your employment status matches with your contract.

If you're legally classed as an employee, you also have protection from being dismissed or experiencing any 'detriment' if you:

  • reasonably believe being at work or doing certain tasks would put you in serious and imminent danger
  • take action over a health and safety issue, for example complaining about unsafe working conditions

Detriment means treatment that leaves you worse off, for example:

  • your employer reduces your hours
  • you experience bullying or harassment
  • your employer turns down your training requests without good reason

From 31 May 2021 if you're legally classed as a worker you also have protection from experiencing any 'detriment' if you:

  • reasonably believe being at work or doing certain tasks would put you in serious and imminent danger
  • you take action over a health and safety issue

Working for more than one employer

If you're on a zero-hours contract, by law, your employer must not:

  • stop you working for another employer by putting an 'exclusivity clause' in your contract
  • treat you unfairly if you do work for another employer
  • dismiss you for it if you're legally classed as an employee

This law still applies even if your employer says you've broken your contract by working for another employer.

Rest breaks

Under zero-hours contracts, you have the same rights as other employees to:

  • rest breaks at work
  • rest between working days or shifts
  • weekly rest periods

Find out more about rest breaks.

Breaks in employment contracts

If you're not provided work for a full calendar week (7 consecutive days from Sunday to the following Saturday), this usually counts as a break in employment.

In some situations, it may not count as a break in employment. For example, when:

  • you're off work for up to 26 weeks with sickness or injury
  • your seasonal or academic work regularly stops temporarily
  • you and your employer have an agreement, such as a career break

If you're unsure, you can ask your employer how it affects your contract.

If there is a break in your employment, your employer must pay you for:

  • any holiday you've built up and not taken
  • outstanding wages and notice pay (if you were employed for more than a month, or if your contract says so)

When your employment has been continuous, with no break, you might have more employment rights.

For example, depending on your contract, after your first year you might not have to build up holiday before you can take it.

The employer's responsibilities for zero-hours workers

The employer is responsible for:

  • zero-hours workers' health and safety at work
  • paying their wages through PAYE, including tax and National Insurance (NI) deductions

Find out more about PAYE, tax and NI from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

If you think your employer is not following the law

If you think you're not getting what you're entitled to, for example rest breaks or pay, you should first raise the issue with your employer.

Zero-hours contracts
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