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Zero Hour Contracts

04 Nov 2020

With Christmas approaching, zero-hour contacts often shoot up in popularity, as in summer too for many. But the topic of zero hours can be tricky.

Depending who you talk to, some will agree with them, whereas some don’t have a good word to say about them. A lot of this is down to personal experience and preference. But what is a zero-hour contact and are would one be good for you?

What is a zero hour contract?

ACAS describe zero hour contracts as when the work is not constant or it is ‘as and when’. If you are on a zero hour contact, the employer is not required to give you any minimum working hours (unless specified in a contact), nor do you have to take any work offered to you (again, unless specified in a contract).

Is a zero hour contract right for me?

This really depends on preference. Many people like being employed on a zero-hour contract because it suits them, whereas some people would rather have a firm contract in place, with set hours. In some cases, you may not know what you prefer until you experience one yourself. Likewise, as you go through different stages of life, you may go from loving zero hours, to hating them, as jobs have different demands and requirements.

There are numerous factors that impact whether a zero-hour contract is right for you. Here are some of the benefits, as well as disadvantages of zero-hour contacts.

Benefits of zero hour contracts

A zero-hour contact can give you fantastic flexibility, so you can make your employment work around your studies and other commitments. Depending on your employer and the terms of your contract, you may be able to choose your hours based on your own availability. You can also turn down hours if they are offered to you, if they don’t quite fit your schedule. You can also work more one week, and less the next.

Opportunity for plenty of hours
Likewise, there are lots of opportunities for overtime and work lots of hours. If for example have lots of availability over the summer holidays and you let you manager know you want to work plenty of hours, they may be able to give you lots of work so you can earn whilst you have the time to do so.

End up with permanent role
Employers may hire people on zero-hour contracts to help cope with increased demand over a period, such as Christmas or summer. Alternatively, it may just be the way they operate. If you land a zero-hour role, is you are able to work hard and impress your managers/supervisors, it may lead to them offering you a new, permanent contract with guaranteed hours, therefore a stable income.

Work multiple jobs
As we mentioned before, a zero-hour contract can allow you to be flexible. That flexibility may help you to land multiple jobs, such as if one is with permanent hours on a set day, and you are hoping to work around your studies too. It may be that you have a job 1 day a week in an office, gaining work experience, and you are hoping to work around that but don’t want to commit to another job. A zero-hour contract can allow you to do exactly that.

What are the drawbacks of zero hour contracts?

No fixed/guaranteed income
One disadvantage is that without any set work and hours per week, you may not have a fixed/guaranteed income. This can make budgeting difficult as your income may change month by month, especially as a student.

Less benefits
As an employee, you may not be entitled to the same benefits as permanent employees. This may mean you miss out on bonuses, pension contributions and redundancy. If this is something you are not sure about, discuss with your employer.

Unsociable hours
Working on a zero-hour contract may mean you are given shifts during unsociable hours, such as early mornings or in the evenings. Although you may be under no obligation to accept those hours, it may be the only hours offered to you, so you are left having to take them. The same goes for weekends and bank holidays, these maybe offered to you frequently.

Unsure what your rights are as an employee on zero-hour contracts? Head over to the Gov.uk website to find out

Searching for a Christmas job? Search here for the opportunities we have on the site.

Interested in podcasts? We have started the Employment 4 Students Podcast, aimed at giving students tips, advice and inspirational careers journey stories. We are live on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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