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wonderpup

How can a zero hours contract be valid in english law?

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In order for a contract to be valid in enlglish law certain conditions must be met. One of these conditions is as follows;

Contracts must contain mutual promises, or obligations, between the parties making the agreement. For example in return for Mrs Smith delivering the chair Mr Jones agrees to pay £100 on delivery. The obligation is the delivery of the chair and the consideration is the £100. If there is no mutual obligation then there is no contract.

In the case of a zero hours employment contract there is no mutual obligation as far as I can see, just the obligation of the employee to be avialable for work as and when required- but on the other side of the contract there seems no obligation on the part of the employer to do anything at all in terms of offering work to the employee.

So how can these contracts have any legal status in UK employment law, if they violate this basic requirement of contract formation?

Any legal brains out there know the answer?

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Zero hours is just stupid. My son is a student and had a job on zero hours but they hadn't phoned him recently and he forgot about them. TWO YEARS LATER he had a tax query and HMRC asked him was he employed, he said no, but taxman said yes you are and you can't have your tax refund. So he had to phone his "employer" and tell them he "resigned".

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Why all this anger over "zero hours contract"?  Mr Quine is delighted to have any contract at the moment (oil and gas).  Me too.  Temping/contracting.  Love the freemdom. Never knew the term "zero hour contract" before HPC forum.

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5 hours ago, quine said:

Why all this anger over "zero hours contract"?  Mr Quine is delighted to have any contract at the moment (oil and gas).  Me too.  Temping/contracting.  Love the freemdom. Never knew the term "zero hour contract" before HPC forum.

Not entirely sure you are thinking about the same thing. 

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6 hours ago, quine said:

Why all this anger over "zero hours contract"?  Mr Quine is delighted to have any contract at the moment (oil and gas).  Me too.  Temping/contracting.  Love the freemdom. Never knew the term "zero hour contract" before HPC forum.

Great if you have skills in high demand. Not so good if you are competing with an army of similarly under skilled people for minimum wage work.  Exploitative at best 

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Temping/Contracting is different from zero hours. I can't imagine a contractor turning up for work at Conoco Phillips on Monday morning and the boss saying 'Sorry Dave, no work this week' like it's Sports Direct.

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7 hours ago, quine said:

Why all this anger over "zero hours contract"?  Mr Quine is delighted to have any contract at the moment (oil and gas).  Me too.  Temping/contracting.  Love the freemdom. Never knew the term "zero hour contract" before HPC forum.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Contracting - "we would like to hire you for x days at y pounds a day - do you agree?"

Zero-hours - "we would like you to be available to work for us at any time, but we will only pay you when we actually need you. You may not seek any other work in case it impacts that availability, and if you are not available when required, then we have the option of fining you for breach of contract."

But, seriously? You've not come across zero-hours outside this forum? Have you been living under a rock?

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Shows how f***** the economy is when you have to transfer the entire risk of a business onto the employees.

Edited by gibbon

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1 minute ago, gibbon said:

Shows how f***** the economy is when you have to transfer the entire risk of a business onto the employees.

I'm convinced we are in an economic depression which tptb are successfully masking with this and other carp. Till they are not of course 

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The exclusivity part of zero hours contracts was outlawed 2 years ago.

http://m.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4468

The following from wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-hour_contract 

InAutoclenz Ltd v Belcher the UK Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking  judgment on workers who were on a zero hour contract. Lord Clarke held, at paragraph 35, that in employment relations which are characterised by inequality of bargaining power, the written terms of a contract may not in truth represent what was the contract in law. In 2013, the reasoning in Autoclenz was applied by Supperstone J in the Employment Appeal Tribunal[11] to hold that a security guard who was given a zero hours contract was entitled to a stable working pattern: the contract's written terms were invalid. Together, this indicates that all zero hours contracts may be unlawful, and workers may be entitled to sue their employers for an unlawful deduction of wages if they are willing and able to work.[12]

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12 hours ago, wonderpup said:

In order for a contract to be valid in enlglish law certain conditions must be met. One of these conditions is as follows;

Contracts must contain mutual promises, or obligations, between the parties making the agreement. For example in return for Mrs Smith delivering the chair Mr Jones agrees to pay £100 on delivery. The obligation is the delivery of the chair and the consideration is the £100. If there is no mutual obligation then there is no contract.

In the case of a zero hours employment contract there is no mutual obligation as far as I can see, just the obligation of the employee to be avialable for work as and when required- but on the other side of the contract there seems no obligation on the part of the employer to do anything at all in terms of offering work to the employee.

So how can these contracts have any legal status in UK employment law, if they violate this basic requirement of contract formation?

Any legal brains out there know the answer?

Because the obligation can be minimal. As a general rule the law doesn't look too much into the sufficiency/fairness of the obligation. In other words, as long as there is some value to what is being promised then it tends to be legal. I imagine it's the same as ISPs promising 'up to 100Mb' internet connections. They could provide anything between 1Mb-100Mb and it would still be legal. In the same way, the employer is promising either to make endeavours to find them whatever work is available week by week.

Note that morality and legality do not have to coincide.

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Discussions like this really seem to boil down to this - what does a society do with stupid people?  In any society there's a large number of relatively stupid people, and there's nothing wrong in that, it's normal. Now these people can have great work ethics; they can be highly creative; they just aren't academic and maybe don't have many skills. It seems to me that our society doesn't really know what to do with them all. Especially as we have a benefits system that pays as much as minimum wage. Especially as we have unlimited immigrants coming in that are happy to do the "degrading" jobs. So what do you do with all those Brits who don't want to do those jobs, yet have little or nothing better to offer? The current answer seems to be to fiddle and tweak the system to kick the ball down the field for future generations to get a grip with. 

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17 hours ago, wonderpup said:

 

So how can these contracts have any legal status in UK employment law, if they violate this basic requirement of contract formation?

Any legal brains out there know the answer?

My contract law is a long time ago, but I suspect zero-hours contracts have no legal standing - they are a figment of the media in describing people with no jobs and companies with no employees

The offering of a "zero-hours contract" is merely an invitation to treat - at that point there are absolutely no obligations on either party. The contract is struck when the hours are offered for an agreed rate (offer and acceptance for consideration)

The fact that an employer says "be exclusively available at all times for the possibility of work or you're fired" is BS (both morally and legally) If there was an enforceable contract and the employee wasn't available because they were at another job then why are they not sued for breach of contract (or vice versa why is the employer not sued for not providing an agreed amount of hours). In reality the employer simply moves onto the next poor  bugger. It's symptomatic of the hand-to-mouth existence of many and the available pool of desperate souls needing the money)

There is no contract

My take anyway

Disclaimer: I am NOT a legal brain and everything I have just written may be totally incorrect

Edited by knock out johnny

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3 hours ago, Popsock said:

Discussions like this really seem to boil down to this - what does a society do with stupid people?  In any society there's a large number of relatively stupid people, and there's nothing wrong in that, it's normal. Now these people can have great work ethics; they can be highly creative; they just aren't academic and maybe don't have many skills. It seems to me that our society doesn't really know what to do with them all. Especially as we have a benefits system that pays as much as minimum wage. Especially as we have unlimited immigrants coming in that are happy to do the "degrading" jobs. So what do you do with all those Brits who don't want to do those jobs, yet have little or nothing better to offer? The current answer seems to be to fiddle and tweak the system to kick the ball down the field for future generations to get a grip with. 

Good first post popsock and welcome.  I agree, since successive governments decided that the UK would be better served by a service economy rather than a manufacturing economy, this has been a problem.  We are not doing so well on selling houses and coffee to each other

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2 hours ago, knock out johnny said:

My contract law is a long time ago, but I suspect zero-hours contracts have no legal standing - they are a figment of the media in describing people with no jobs and companies with no employees

The offering of a "zero-hours contract" is merely an invitation to treat - at that point there are absolutely no obligations on either party. The contract is struck when the hours are offered for an agreed rate (offer and acceptance for consideration)

The fact that an employer says "be exclusively available at all times for the possibility of work or you're fired" is BS (both morally and legally) If there was an enforceable contract and the employee wasn't available because they were at another job then why are they not sued for breach of contract (or vice versa why is the employer not sued for not providing an agreed amount of hours). In reality the employer simply moves onto the next poor  bugger. It's symptomatic of the hand-to-mouth existence of many and the available pool of desperate souls needing the money)

There is no contract

My take anyway

Disclaimer: I am NOT a legal brain and everything I have just written may be totally incorrect

I think you may be sort of right on this.

however,the law lords must make sure that in cases such as these,that a zero hours contract also means zero recompense/restitution of the employer if joe bloggs has other work commitments lined up because of that .

it is unreasonable to expect someone to be dangling on a string 24/7 in the hope of a phone call...only self employed can do that,and they tout for other business in the mean time....if they get a better proposal then they are within their rights to complete an existing contract(in a zero hour capacity that also means zero liability),and move on.

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Why all this anger over "zero hours contract"?  Mr Quine is delighted to have any contract at the moment (oil and gas).  Me too.  Temping/contracting.  Love the freemdom. Never knew the term "zero hour contract" before HPC forum.

A zero hours worker has his tax taken via PAYE and cannot claim expenses like travel costs ect. And while in theory he has 'employment rights' like paid holiday ect- in reality these rights do not exist because there is no way for him to assert them without being 'sacked' via the simple expediant of never offering him any future work.

So zero hours means all the insecurity of self employment with none of the tax advantages.

 

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Although I hate them with all my body and soul, this where Unions could do a lot of good.

The pendulum has swung too far.

All that we need are workers unions, not sinecures for pinko, lefty, subversive Marxists.

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53 minutes ago, Byron said:

Although I hate them with all my body and soul, this where Unions could do a lot of good.

The pendulum has swung too far.

All that we need are workers unions, not sinecures for pinko, lefty, subversive Marxists.

+1

Excellent and succint post.

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28 minutes ago, Byron said:

Although I hate them with all my body and soul, this where Unions could do a lot of good.

The pendulum has swung too far.

All that we need are workers unions, not sinecures for pinko, lefty, subversive Marxists.

Ah, yes, I agree but if my trade union is anything to go by, they have all,gone sjw and care more about issues on the othe side of the world, rather than fighting to maintain the employment rights of their (paying) members.  A bit like the Labour Party really 

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I have no love of these contracts either but can see the flexibility of them.

As for the legal question the offer of work is made there is no obligation for the worker to take it. The contract only applies if they do. Things like minimum wage and holiday pay come under statutory requirement as per hours actually worked.

I always took the view a savvy zero hours worker had half a dozen employers and played them all off against each other.

If firms cannot get body's to fill the positions they need they will turn back to permanent contracts soon enough or cease to exist.

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