Notice periods for employees on a zero hours contract

We discuss whether you should give workers on zero hours contracts leaving notice

Zero hours contracts tend to have a poor rep. But they’re not all bad.

Your staff get to pick and choose when they work. And you only need to pay them when they do work.

As you’re hiring staff on a casual basis, it’s hard to know whether zero hours contracts include a notice period. Here’s what the law says.

What does the law say about zero hours contracts and notice periods?

Zero hours contract workers have no statutory rights to notice periods.

This means you can terminate a worker’s zero hours contract without notice—and they can leave without any warning.

The reason for this is that most casual staff have the employment status of ‘worker’. And they don’t have the same rights as ‘employees’.

Workers can’t request flexible working, get protection against an unfair dismissal or work a minimum notice period.

But not all zero hours staff are workers.

Some get employee status based on the terms of their contract. For example, if they can’t refuse the hours that you offer them.

And as employees, they’re eligible for statutory notice.

Even so, should I give workers on zero hours contracts leaving notice?

You’re under no legal obligation to. But it is good practice to give staff on zero hours contracts notice.

It gives them a chance to start looking for other work, and you the opportunity to line someone else up.

Remember though, your staff don’t have to work their notice. They can refuse to pick up any shifts during this time and effectively leave before their notice is up.

But that doesn’t mean you can just stop offering them work. If you do, your staff could claim discrimination and take you to an employment tribunal.

It’s best to adopt a notice period and include it in your staff contracts, so they know how their employment will end.

And how much notice should staff on a zero hours contract get?

If you decide to give zero hours contract workers notice, it should be the legal minimum.

You should give all staff statutory notice of:

  • One week if you've employed them for one month or over, but for less than two years.
  • Two weeks if you've employed them for two years. For every year after that, you should add one extra week's notice up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

You can set your own contractual notice if you want. This can be as long as you like providing that it’s over the statutory minimum.

Typically, employers ask for one month’s notice but this can go up depending on the role.

So it’s true… zero hours workers have fewer employment rights?

Yes, workers on zero hours contracts have fewer rights than employees. But that doesn’t mean they have none at all.

They’re entitled to the National Minimum Wage, rest breaks and protection from discrimination. Want to know what else?

Find out whether zero hours contract workers get sick pay. And learn how to work out holiday pay for zero hours contract staff.

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