A zero-hours contract is usually where an employer does not have to give any minimum working hours and a worker does not have to take any work offered.
Whether some on a zero-hours contract is classed as an employee can vary, and make a difference to the rights they have, according to Acas chief executive Susan Clews.
She said: “Most workers are unaware of workplace rights under zero-hours contracts. They may seem complex but there are key rights that apply to everyone under these arrangements.”
Acas advises someone on a zero-hours contract could be legally classed as an employee or a worker, with their employment status determining their legal rights.
The National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, paid holiday, rest breaks, receipt of payslips, and protection from discrimination will always apply to anyone on a zero-hours contract.
Nicola Inge, social impact director at CSR charity, Business in the Community, said employers must take care to remain compliant.
She told HR magazine: "It’s critical that employers make sure that all employees, regardless of their contract type, are aware of their employment rights. This research demonstrates the need for employers to pay particular attention to employees on zero-hours contracts, making sure they are receiving the right pay, paid leave, and rest breaks they are entitled to.
“The onus is on the employer to get this right to make sure people are treated fairly, and part of this approach should involve raising awareness among employees on these contracts of the rights they are entitled to."
Simon Jones, founder of Ariadne Associates, said ensuring zero-hours workers are treated more fairly could help with recruitment problems.
He said: "Even if most workers are unaware of their rights on zero-hours contracts, that doesn't mean employers can ignore their responsibilities. Many zero-hours employees are in sectors that are suffering recruitment problems, like hospitality, and so it makes business sense to treat such employees fairly and reasonably – quite apart from the ethical implications.”
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act, which is due to come into effect Autumn 2024, will give all workers, including those on zero-hours contracts, the legal right to request a predictable working pattern.
Acas has created a draft Code of Practice on how to handle requests, which they are asking for employers and employees to review through their consultation.
Jones added: “Zero-hour contracts can also be difficult to manage from an HR perspective, for example when calculating holidays and other entitlements. So minimising their use, even before the new regulations come in, is a good idea.”