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CIPD calls for controls on exclusivity in zero-hours contracts

The CIPD has made a number of recommendations to the Government on zero-hours contracts. They include a ban on exclusivity clauses, unless there is a compelling business reason, and a legal right to request a minimum number of hours after 12 months.

The suggestions were made in the CIPD's response to the Government's consultation on zero-hours contracts. The other recommendations are for all employees on the contracts to have a written copy of their terms within two months and a code of practice to set out correct working practice for employers.

CIPD head of public policy Ben Willmott said that zero-hours contracts could be useful for both employers and employees. He highlighted the flexibility they could bring to the labour market and the workplace, but warned that employers must use them fairly.

"The nature of zero-hours employment means that some people on these arrangements might have more than one job and so it is unfair for employers to require that zero-hours staff can’t work for other organisations when they cannot provide work, except in very specific circumstances," he said.

Jonathan Exten-Wright, partner at business law firm DLA Piper, told HR magazine that he didn't believe exclusivity contracts were widespread in their use. "I've yet to see an exclusivity clause, which is quite telling. The CIPD research shows that we are only talking about a very small percentage of total cases with these clauses in." 

Exten-Wright said that having different rules for those currently working and those in a pool of people waiting for work could be an effective way to manage the rules around exclusivity.

He said to doubt the possibility of a minimum number of hours clause in a zero-hours contract. "The reason employers are so keen on zero-hours contracts is that it affords a greater degree of flexibility. If you introduce a clause of minimum hours then by definition it ceases to be a zero-hours contract," he said.