Zero hours contracts

Some 'casual work' has always played a legitimate role in the UK economy. It is useful, for example, for students looking to earn extra money, or to workers looking to supplement their household income without the commitment of regular hours. Casual working patterns have always suited employers, by providing short-term cover for holidays or sickness, or responding to short-term fluctuation in demand, such as the run up to Christmas in the retail trade, or seasonal work in agriculture.

But since the economic downturn, this kind of uncertain irregular working pattern has become the 'norm' for far too many workers.

The TUC wants the government to end the abuse of zero hours contracts and to provide more support.

As an individual worker on a zero hours contract, it can be very difficult to improve your position. The employer holds all the cards. As TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady says,

"Zero-hours contracts sum up what has gone wrong in the modern workplace. They shift almost all power from the worker and give it to their boss. Anyone on such a contract has no guarantee of any work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong, and you can find yourself with little or no work".

The best way to improve your position if you are on a zero hours contract is to join a union and to encourage your colleagues to do the same. Once enough workers have joined the union, it will be able to apply to your employer for recognition, which gives the right to collectively bargain (i.e. negotiate) wages and other terms and conditions on your behalf. The more people that join, the stronger the union's voice will be. Browse our Union Finder tool for advice on the most suitable union for you.


You can find out more information about zero hours contracting from the Acas website and by calling the Acas Helpline: 0300 123 1100.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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