Zero-hours contracts are on the rise according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year.

The data revealed that almost 700,000 people were employed on a casual term basis at the end of last year, and unions believe this number is set to hit 1.5 million by the end of 2015.

While employers argue that they are beneficial to both parties, zero-hours contracts have come under intense scrutiny by both the press and the government for their unreliable conditions.

Their increased popularity amongst employers makes it even more important for you to know your rights and have a full understanding of what to expect, so we’ve compiled a quick guide to zero-hours contracts.

What are zero-hours contracts?

Zero-hours contracts are casual term contracts with no guarantee of working hours. The employee will only work when they are required and will only get paid for the amount of hours they do.

If you are classed as an ‘employee’ you have to work the hours provided to you, but as a ‘worker’ you can still decline.

They offer flexibility to employers, allowing them to tailor working hours based on changes in the economy and seasonal customer demand thus making the contracts a favourable option for many companies.

When should you look out for them?

The majority of part time employees such as students, mothers and immigrants tend to be offered zero-hours contracts over those guaranteeing set hours of work.

The contracts are common in the hospitality and restaurant trade. More recently though, zero-hours contracts have made their way into the retail, administrative and social care sectors due to the need for tighter budgeting.

Why are they so controversial?

Zero-hours contracts repeatedly come under fire in the press for the lack of job security and financial stability that they provide.

The ONS found that most casual employees work an average of 25 hours a week and one third of these workers want or need more hours.

It is therefore feared that the contracts are being used as unfair management tools giving employers less responsibility for staff.

What are your rights?

Despite the casual terms of zero-hours contracts it is important to remember that you are still entitled to basic rights.

Workers must be paid national minimum wage and will always be entitled to holiday pay, although the rate will be based on an irregular shift pattern making it slightly harder to calculate.

You are also entitled to work for other people as a result of the ban on exclusivity, which came into place in March this year.

If you are unsure about the conditions of your zero-hours contract or feel like you are being treated unfairly in the workplace, we can help. Here at Beecham Peacock we have a trusted relationship with some of the largest trade unions in the country to protect your working rights. For further information call us on 0191 232 3048 or email

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