What is a zero hours contract?

In a typical 'zero hours contract' arrangement, the written contract terms will state that the employer is not obliged to offer any work and the worker is not obliged to accept it.

The written statement of employment particulars that your employer must give you within two months of starting work will typically describe your hours as 'zero', or perhaps 'hours to be agreed' or 'casual as required'. Sometimes, instead of no hours at all, the contract will promise, say, three hours a week – a so called 'short hours' contract.

Just because the written contract says that your hours of work are 'zero', this isn’t the end of the story. What matters is the reality of the situation. If you can show a working pattern of regular hours over a long period, an employment tribunal may decide that your true contractual working hours are the regular hours you have in fact been working. ONS statistics have shown that most zero hours contract workers work around 25 hours a week.

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.