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As from Monday 11 January, new regulations will give zero hours workers a remedy in the employment tribunal if they are victimised for breaching an exclusivity term in their contract. Provisions in zero hours contracts which tie workers to a single employer have been unenforceable since May 2015, but up to now there have been no sanctions for employers who continue to rely on them.
These regulations are likely to represent the final piece of legislation to emerge from the Government review of zero hours contracts, which began in 2013. They confer a general right on workers under these contracts not to be subjected to a detriment for breaching an exclusivity clause. Workers who are able to establish employment status and who are dismissed on these grounds will be regarded as unfairly dismissed. Non-employee workers will have broadly equivalent rights. In either case the compensation that can be awarded cannot exceed the current unfair dismissal limits.
A previous draft of the regulations, published as part of the response to consultation published last year, included some limited anti-avoidance provisions, but these have not been carried through into the final regulations. That means that contracts offering a very limited amount of guaranteed work may not be regarded as zero hours contracts for these purposes. However the regulations provide for a review by the Secretary of State every five years. So if systematic avoidance emerges, that may be addressed by the Government at a later date.
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