Zero hour contracts have been a topic of controversy for several years and continue to raise questions about workers’ rights and employment law. These contracts allow employers to hire staff on a casual basis, with no guaranteed hours of work. Instead, workers are called upon to work as and when required by their employer, often at short notice, with no set schedule. But are zero hour contracts legal in 2021?
The short answer is yes. Zero hour contracts are still legal in the UK, but there have been recent changes to employment law that aim to provide greater protection for workers who are on these types of contracts. In addition, the government has published a Good Work Plan that outlines the steps it is taking to improve workers’ rights, including those on zero hour contracts.
One of the key changes that has been introduced is the right for zero hour workers to request a more stable contract after 26 weeks of service. Employers are now obliged to consider such requests, and can only refuse them if there is a valid business reason for doing so. This gives workers on zero hour contracts a greater sense of security and stability, as they have the option to request more secure employment if they wish to do so.
Another recent change in employment law is the introduction of the National Living Wage, which came into force in April 2021. This means that all workers aged 23 and over are entitled to a minimum wage of £8.91 per hour. Previously, only those aged 25 and over were entitled to the National Living Wage. The introduction of this measure has helped to improve pay levels for workers on zero hour contracts.
However, there are still concerns about the use of zero hour contracts. Many workers feel that they are being exploited, as they have no guaranteed income or stable working hours. This can make it difficult for workers to plan their finances and can lead to a lack of financial security. In addition, some employers use zero hour contracts to avoid paying benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, and pensions.
In conclusion, zero hour contracts are legal in 2021, but there have been recent changes to legislation that aim to provide greater protection for workers. These changes include the right for zero hour workers to request more stable employment after 26 weeks of service, and the introduction of the National Living Wage. While there are still concerns about the use of zero hour contracts, the government is taking steps to improve employment law and workers’ rights, which is a positive step in the right direction.