Could work-related stress brought about by zero hours contracts really lead to an increase in ET claims?

3 mins

Posted on 26 Nov 2015

Recent research by the University of Cambridge has shown that rising uncertainty brought about by the increasing use of zero hours contract and flexible contracts has led to a significant increase in work-related stress.  Some commentators have suggested this is likely to see an increase in Employment Tribunal claims, but is this really the case when CIPD research has shown that Zero Hours Contract (ZHC) workers are marginally more satisfied with their work and life balance?

Since July 2013, claimants have had to pay fees in order to bring claims in the Employment Tribunals. Stress may give rise to a disability discrimination claim.

With regards to a discrimination claim an individual must pay £250 to lodge their claim, and a further £950 to proceed to a full hearing.

In the year prior to the introduction of fees, the Employment Tribunals received 13,500 claims per quarter. After the introduction of fees, this fell by 67% to 4,500 per quarter. 79% of those claims lodged were for ‘Type B’ claims, which include discrimination cases. In the past year, only 219 discrimination cases have been won and had compensation awarded. 

Zero Hours Contracts

Zero Hours Contracts received a lot of bad press in recent months. These contracts do not guarantee work from a company, nor is the worker under an obligation to accept and carry out work when it is offered. The worker is only paid for the work they carry out. This can undoubtedly cause stress for those individuals who need a minimum number of hours to provide the necessary income.

Stress or Flexibility?

It has been extensively reported that companies have exploited their use. Many companies have included exclusivity clauses which prohibit the individual from working elsewhere, even when they are not actively carrying out work for the company. Exclusivity clauses have now been banned, so are ZHCs really all bad news? 

When ZHCs are used correctly these contracts offer huge flexibility to workers. They can be particularly useful for students trying to fit in work around their studies and exams, or families who are trying to fit in work around child care responsibilities, or for individuals who only wish for a few extra hours every now and again to ‘top up’ their income.

Further, a recent study of Millennials has shown that flexible working is the 2nd most valuable benefit, ranking far higher than benefits such as maternity pay, child care vouchers, cash bonuses and greater holiday allowances. 

It is therefore clear that there are both positive and negative sides to the use of ZHCs. Their use has been around for a long time, and therefore now one of the main negatives about their use has been banned, we will wait to see whether the predicted increase in tribunal claims arises.

Are you using zero hours contracts in your business or are you considering their use? 

If you would like a sense check about your use of ZHCs or if you would like more information about the use of ZHCs please contact us by telephone on 0207 329 9090 or by email or complete the form on this page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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