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Zero hours contracts for domestic staff

There are many households which employ domestic staff on a part-time basis, and some may well be using a form of contract known as a “zero hours contract.”

In recent times this form of contract has come under strong scrutiny and criticism as being unfair on the employee, as such a contract could include an exclusivity clause, meaning the employee could not work for anyone else.

Employers of domestic staff may have felt this avoided the risk of such part-time staff revealing information about their household to another employer.

A zero hours contract is one in which the employer does not guarantee an employee a minimum number of working hours. The employer offers the employee work when it arises and the employee can either accept this work offer, or not.

However, the government has now introduced two major changes to such contracts.

Firstly, exclusivity clauses are banned, except in a specific situation (see below).

Secondly, if someone is working regular hours over an extended period of time, they should be on a part-time contract and not a zero hours contract.

These two changes provide greater security for employees by enabling them to look for additional work, thereby increasing their earnings.

If you, as an employer, decide to use a zero hours contract, you must provide a contract which is sufficiently clear and transparent for the employee to understand their rights and the implications of the contract.

You should also plan ahead and give as much notice as possible when offering work.

However you must consider carefully whether your situation falls outside of a zero hours contract, specifically, if employees are working regular hours. If that is the case, another form of contract should be used. Using a zero hours contract where it is inappropriate could leave an employer open to a claim in an employment tribunal.

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