Employers are being urged to help expose loopholes in plans to ban the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.
The Business Secretary Vince Cable has mooted a ban on exclusivity clauses but now the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) is called for business, unions and individuals to help identify potential flaws in the system, which could be exploited by “unscrupulous employers”.
Concerns that some employers may offer contracts with guarantees of just one hour work have been noted.
A public consultation will now run until November 3 and will collect evidence to inform sector-specific codes of practice for the use of zero hours contracts.
The results will help to form the zero hours contracts section of the forthcoming Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.
The move follows the Government’s 2013 review of zero hours contracts which found the use of exclusivity clauses can leave employees tied exclusively to one employer even if no or little work is available; and a lack of transparency and information on the employment contract, leaving individuals unaware of their rights.
Business Secretary, Vince 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.
“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.
“We want to give individuals the chance to find work that suits their individual circumstances whilst also giving employers the confidence to hire and create new jobs.”
A separate consultation on exclusivity and transparency of zero hours contracts, which closed in March this year, found over 83% supported a ban on the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimate that 9% of all those on zero hours contacts are on an exclusivity clause. BIS estimate that this could be 17,000 people or could be as high as 125,000.
More information on the consultation can be found at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/zero-hours-employment-contracts-exclusivity-clause-ban-avoidance .