Ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts – level playing field for recruiters

Vince Cable has today announced proposals to bring into law a ban on exclusivity clauses within zero hours arrangements. The target being employers who engage a person on a zero hours contract with no guarantee of work, yet also require workers to be available by restricting individuals from taking up other roles whilst employed. The practice has been widely criticised as unfair and the government are taking steps to address it in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill being introduced to Parliament today.

Other aspects of zero hours contracts have been criticised and there have been calls for them to be banned. However in introducing this proposal, Vince Cable has recognised the value of zero hours arrangements and again having a flexible workforce, brings to the UK economy.

It has also been announced that there will be a further consultation on how to prevent employers evading the exclusivity ban. Whilst for some businesses the change in the law will necessarily result in a change in business models, contracts and operations; for the recruitment industry it may actually be of benefit and a step towards levelling the playing field between recruiters and other businesses.  Under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 recruiters are already restricted from subjecting a work seeker to detriment or threatening to do so on the grounds that the work seeker takes up employment elsewhere, as a result of which recruiters could not include an exclusivity clause in any event.

Theresa Mimnagh, employment expert at the recruitment law specialist Lawspeed, said “This is just one example of where agency workers have greater rights and protections than their directly employed counterparts. The AWR and a right to comparable pay and working conditions and the restriction on having payments withheld in certain circumstances being two other notable areas.  With a consultation soon expected on changes to the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003 it remains to be seen what other changes we can expect.”