After months of controversy surrounding working conditions at their warehouse and reported breaches of several areas of employment legislation including working hours and national minimum wage, Sports Direct today announced that they would do away with some of their zero hours contracts.
Employment law consultant Emma O’Leary says zero hours contracts can be a useful tool for employers and employees if they are used properly.
She says: “The issue with the type of contracts Sports Direct used was that they banned employees from working anywhere but Sports Direct and essentially had employees at their beck and call, whilst at the same time offering no guarantee of any particular hours or any hours at all.”
“When zero hours contracts are properly constructed and not abused then many workers actually like them. A true zero hours contract contains no mutuality of obligation – the employer does not have to provide hours and the worker does not have to accept them. The idea is that they are properly ad hoc contracts – an employer will give them work as and when require and they take it when they can. Someone on a zero hours contract can have as many other jobs as they like, so it really offers workers the flexibility to work around their own lifestyles or other jobs. It can work well in industries such as care where carers do work for a number of care providers, picking up shifts to cover holidays or illness.”
“With Sports Direct it seems their zero hours contracts might not been genuine and, despite their apologies for conditions and ‘serious shortcomings in working practices’, even the change to zero hours contracts which was announced today might not be as good as it initially seems – the BBC reports that almost all the staff at the companies Shirebrook warehouse are agency workers and therefore won’t be eligible for the guaranteed 12 hours a week the company has promised to their directly employed casual retail staff. The company still faces several legal challenges to their working practices. The announcement of changes today – the day before their Annual General Meeting – almost looks more like a PR exercise than a genuine attempt to improve working conditions for workers across the company.”
If you’ve got any questions regarding zero hours contracts or any other employment issue, contact ELAS today on 0161 785 2000