During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees may have had questions about their rights, particularly in regard to their contracts. Following on from this week’s Law Society Solicitor Chat on this topic, Priya Patel from the FJG’s Dispute Resolution team has provided some answers to a few frequently asked questions about zero-hour contracts.
What would be considered a zero-hour contract?
A zero-hour contract can be explained as a contract where the employer does not guarantee any hours of work at all. An employee may or may not be required to accept work that is offered.
Are employees on zero-hour contracts entitled to sick pay?
Employees on zero-hour contracts are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are able to meet the eligibility conditions. To qualify for SSP entitlement, the government guidelines state the following:-
- The worker must be classed as an employee who has done work for an employer;
- Their average earnings should be at least £120 per week;
- They must have been ill, self-isolating, or ‘shielding’ for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days).
The amount of days of SSP entitlement depends on why the employee was absent from work.
The employee must tell their employer that they are unable to work before the deadline the employer sets (or within 7 days if the employer has not set one). An employee can lose some of their SSP if they do not tell their employer in time.
What annual leave are employees on zero-hour contracts entitled to?
Employees under a zero-hour contract have a right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ statutory annual leave under the Working Time Regulation 1998. An employer should calculate, in advance, the employee’s annual holiday entitlement in days or hours.
An employer can include bank holidays as part of statutory annual leave. Employees on zero-hour contracts are entitled to a week’s pay for each week of statutory leave that they take. A week’s pay is calculated by assessing the employee’s average pay from the previous 52 weeks (only counting weeks in which they were paid).
Only the hours worked and the paid amount should be used in the calculation for an average hourly or weekly rate. An employer should also pay any remaining holiday entitlement if an employee leaves their role on a zero-hour contract.
Are employees on zero-hour contracts allowed to work for another employer?
Yes, employees on zero-hour contracts can find work with another employer. It is, in fact, illegal for any employer to block the employee taking any other work.
What financial support is available for employees on zero-hour contracts during the pandemic?
Employees under zero-hour contracts can claim for SSP if they are eligible to apply for it however on a general basis, employees would be on ‘furlough’ who will get at least 80% of their normal pay under the CJRS.