By Pravin Jeyaraj
It is commonly known that the main problem with zero hours contracts is that workers do not know whther they have work from one day or one week to the next.
This level of insecurity can result in a great deal of anxiety as people on zero hours contracts, who are often on low incomes too, do not know whether they will be able afford to pay the bills each month.
However, one issue that gets significantly less attention is the notice period required to terminate a zero hours contract.
The default legal position is that there is no notice period to terminate a zero hours contract. If worker wants to leave straightaway, they can. Similarly, if an employer runs out of work, they can let go zero hours workers straightaway,
However, Zero Hours Justice have received numerous enquiries from people who are on contracts that are quite clearly zero hours contracts - no obligation for employer to offer work, no obligation for worker to accept work - but still include a contractual notice period of anywhere from a week to a month.
On the one hand, we've heard from zero hours workers who want to leave straightaway or within a week, but are told by their employer that they have serve a month's notice, as per the contract.
On the other hand, we have also heard from zero hours workers who have a contractual notice period of a a month, but whose contracts are terminated with less than a week's notice. The employer relies upon the zero hours nature of the contract and ignores the provisions about notice periods, thereby preventing the worker earning income from shifts that had already been agreed.
The irony is that workers are still free to turn down work when it is offered and employers have no obligation to offer work, thus rendering a contractual notice period somewhat redundant.
It seems that a lot of employers are trying to have their cake and eat it. They want the "flexibility" of a zero hours contract, if it benefits them, but they are not willing to grant the same flexibility to the worker.
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Images can be downloaded from here. Image of Julian Richer should be credited to Gerardo Jaconelli.