Exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts to be banned

Business secretary Vince Cable has announced that the Government is to outlaw the use of exclusivity in zero-hours contracts, but has resisted calls to ban them completely.

Cable outlined his intention to introduce legislation by the end of today (Wednesday) that will afford everyone on the contracts the right to work for more than one employer.

The move is based on responses to the Government's 12-week consultancy on zero-hours contracts, which ran from December 2013 to March of this year. More than 36,000 people responded, with 83% favouring a complete ban on exclusivity contracts.

Cable called the policy an attempt to crack down on "unscrupulous employers". While accepting changes need to be made, he reiterated his position that the contracts "have a place in the marketplace."

"They offer valuable flexible working opportunities for students, older people and others looking to top up their income and find work that suits their personal circumstances," he said.

However, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady believes the move "doesn't go nearly far enough" and called for a complete ban on zero-hours contracts.

"Far too many employees have no idea from one week to the next just how many hours they'll be working, or more importantly how much money they'll earn," she said. "This makes managing household budgets stressful and organising childcare very difficult indeed."

ONS figures released earlier this year suggested there are 1.4 million people on zero-hours contracts, 150,000 of which contain exclusivity clauses.

However, CIPD deputy CEO Susannah Clements cast doubt on these figures, suggesting respondents to the nationwide survey may not have been clear about the nature of their employment terms.

Speaking at the Talent, Recruitment and Employment Conference in London yesterday, she said: "Most people don't read their contract until they leave, so people are often completely unaware of their contractual rights. Most aren't even aware whether they're classed as a worker or an employee."