As a Jersey business you should be careful how you use zero hour contracts

As a Jersey business you should be careful how you use zero hour contracts

Zero hours contracts can be described as arrangements where a person agrees to be available for work, but no particular number of hours or times of work are guaranteed by the employer and the employee is paid only for work carried out. There is usually no obligation on the part of the employer to offer work and no obligation on the employee to accept.

However, under Jersey Law if you, as an employer, misuse a zero hour contract you may find yourself in front of a Jersey employment tribunal. A recent case has highlighted this issue: Henryk Eszrych (‘Henryk ‘) v Drylining Excellence Limited (the ‘Company’).

Henryk worked as a labourer and was employed on the purported basis of a zero hour contract. He commenced working in January 2018 and was employed on or around five days a week. He was averaging a 40-hour week.

Toward the end of 2018 the Company experienced a reduction in new contracts and accordingly was notified by them that he was not to attend work. This situation continued for some time and the Company did not contact him further. Eventually the lack of work dictated that Henryk was forced to find alternative employment.

Tribunal decision

The Tribunal found in Henryk’s favour of being employed on a normal hours contract of employment and not a zero hour contract.

While the Company argued he was on a zero hour contract the tribunal ‘ must consider the true nature of the relationship between the parties; a contract does not become a ‘zero hour’ contract simply because an employer has inserted some wording to that effect into the document’.

The tribunal concluded that the Zero Hour Clauses were not effective because the evidence showed that, in reality, he was engaged under a normal employment contract with regular hours and mutual obligations on both parties. It was not a case where the Company’s requirement for Henryk’s services was intermittent or unpredictable; his hours were regular and the parties’ behaviour throughout the working relationship showed that there was an expectation (borne out of their understanding of their mutual obligations to one another) that the Company would provide work to Henryk and that Henryk would do that work.

Accordingly Jersey employers should be alive to exactly how a zero hour contract will be treated by a tribunal. It is not merely satisfactory to state zero hour at the top of the contract. The tribunal will consider the true nature of the relationship between the parties.

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