“Zero Hours” employment contracts found not to represent the reality of relationship

Zero Hours Contracts Under Scrutiny by Tribunals

Employers have over recent years, found innumerate ways of benefitting from someone’s work, whilst endeavouring to avoid the rights and responsibilities which come with having an actual “employee”. We have seen contracts for casual workers, as well as “arms-length” relationships with contractors and sub-contractors.

One of the most popular recent mechanisms for “taking someone on” has been the “zero hours contract”. Anyone who has worked in an industry with a high turnover of staff, or a sector with uncertainty of shifts, will recognise the term “zero hours”. This contract implies that no hours can or will be guaranteed, but at the same time many employers expect the employee to act, look and behave as if they were on a typical contract, i.e. attend certain days in the office, under the supervision of management.

In a recent decision at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Pulse Healthcare v Carewatch Care Services Ltd – which related to healthcare workers who said they had worked regular shifts of either 24 or 36 hours per worker, who were on “zero hours” contracts. The claimants argued that the contract bore no relation to the reality of the employment situation, and that the Tribunal had been right to concentrate on the real employment relationship.