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Factsheet:

Zero-hours contracts

Resource summary

This factsheet was last updated in January 2016.

What are zero-hours contracts?

Zero hours contract is not a legal term. In the absence of a legal definition, the CIPD defines a zero-hours contract as ‘an agreement between two parties that one may be asked to perform work for another but there is no minimum set contracted hours.  The contract will state what pay the individual will get if they do work and will deal with circumstances in which work may be offered and possibly turned down’.

The exact nature of zero hours contracts may differ from organisation to organisation. For example:

  • Individuals on zero-hours contracts may be engaged as employees or workers.
  • In some zero-hours contracts the individual will be obliged to accept work if offered, but in others they will not.
  • The pay arrangements and benefits provided may differ from those provided to people doing the same job with a contract offering guaranteed hours.

Because ‘zero-hours contract’ does not have a specific meaning in law, it’s important for employers to ensure that written contracts contain provisions setting out the status, rights and obligations of their zero-hours staff.

Login or register for a free account to continue reading this factsheet and to learn about:

  • What are zero-hours contracts?
  • Why use zero-hour contracts?
  • Employment status
  • Difficult issues
  • Recent legislation on zero-hours contracts 
  • What does good practice look like?
  • CIPD viewpoint
  • Further reading

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