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Debate rages over zero-hours contracts in employment law

17th September 2013

Although such contracts are legal – a worker signs a contract of employment but is not guaranteed work – various commentators have gone on record to express concern at the way some employers are using them.

Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC that he was concerned there was “some exploitation” of staff occurring, but he also recognised that the contracts could suit certain workers who would not wish to be held to exacting work patterns and shifts.

However, unions have called for the contracts to be banned, with Dave Prentis of Unison saying that the balance of power in the use of zero-hour contracts ultimately favours the employers.

In a challenge to the contracts, Sports Direct will be appearing at an employment tribunal as a result of the legal claim of a 30-year-old part-time worker from London.

Following revelations that all of its 20,000 part-time employees are on zero-hours contracts, JD Sports will face allegations that their zero-hours contracts effectively create employees with no job security. According to a report in the Independent, part-time employees at the sports retailer do not receive the same employment benefits as full-time contracted staff.

Anyone who feels their contract of employment is unfair, or breaches their worker rights, should seek independent advice. Employment lawyers are urging employers to seek advice when drawing up contracts and, depending on the outcome of the case against Sports Direct, to review any ongoing zero-hours contracts so as to protect staff and avoid similar litigation.

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