25 June 2014
Employees on zero-hours contracts will be able to work with other employers under new rules announced by the government today.
Business secretary Vince Cable said that exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts, where workers have no guarantee of work but are not permitted to seek work elsewhere, would be banned.
Guy Stallard, director of facilities at KPMG, welcomed the changes, but added that flexibility and fair pay should be at the centre of the contracts.
"It's good for employees who may be trying to balance study or caring commitments with work, and it's good for employers who could have access to a wider network of staff," he said.
"Zero-hours contracts are beneficial to the industry if they are ad hoc, seasonal arrangements.
"There are many scenarios where individuals with personal commitments may be attracted by the flexibility of zero-hour arrangements, but the key is that employees must have genuine freedom to decide when they work."
Stallard suggested that some roles were being incorrectly labelled as zero-hours contracts, when in fact they are 21-hour or 28-hour contracts.
"The contracts cause difficulties when they are given for a permanent job."
Stallard also emphasised the importance of employers paying staff a living wage in building loyalty and motivation for workers.
There are estimated to be around 125,000 zero-hours contract workers tied to an exclusivity clause, and the government said the ban was to clamp down on abuses in the workplace by less scrupulous employers.
Cable said that zero-hours contracts did offer valid flexible working opportunities for students, older people and other people looking to top up their income.
"But it has become clear that some unscrupulous employers abuse the flexibility that these contracts offer to the detriment of their workers. Today we are legislating to clamp down on abuses to ensure people get a fair deal," said Cable.
The government will also work with unions and business to develop a best practice code of conduct aimed at employers wanting to use zero-hours contracts.
It will also consult further on how to prevent rogue employers evading the exclusivity ban, for example, through offering one-hour fixed contracts.