18th April 2014

Zero Hours, Zero Rights?

The Scottish Affairs Committee has recently published an interim report on the use of zero hours contracts in Scotland.

Zero hours contracts are often used by employers who want to engage staff on a flexible basis without binding themselves to certain obligations.  Zero hours contracts are not defined in law.  Typically, a worker will sign up to be available for work as and when required although a zero hours contract places no obligation on the employer to actually provide work.  The worker will be paid only for the hours worked which are generally not guaranteed.

The report described the use of casual labour as alarming and branded the Government’s consultation over zero hours contracts as “too narrow”.  Ian Davidson MP, who chaired the Committee stated: “The overwhelming majority of zero hours contracts are abusive and exploitative and should be abolished”.

The report continued: “It is clear that zero hours contracts and other forms of casual labour can benefit both employers and workers but our inquiry has shown that, too often, the relationship is unbalanced, leaving the employer with all of the flexibility and few costs and the worker in fear of dismissal and denied access to due rights of employment”.

The report found that 20 per cent of those engaged under zero hours contracts are paid less than their permanent counterparts with around 5 per cent being paid below the National Minimum Wage! It described the Government’s assertion that low paid workers could challenge abusive employers through the courts as “fanciful”.

The overriding conclusion was that in the vast majority of cases, zero hours contracts should not be used.  The committee recommended that zero hours contracts must only be used if the employer could objectively justify the use.

It will be interesting to see how the Government reacts to the report and whether any legislation is introduced to regulate the use of zero hours contracts.  In the meantime, no doubt zero hours contracts will remain prevalent.

Jack Boyle
Senior Solicitor – Employment Law

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

Blackadders takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the content of this site is accurate and up to date. The site is not, however, intended as a substitute for seeking legal or other professional advice but rather as an informative guide to the services provided by Blackadders and topical legal developments. Site visitors should always seek advice tailored to their specific situation. Consequently, Blackadders accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by anyone acting or failing to act on the basis of information contained on this site. Downloading of material contained on this site is at the user’s own risk and all necessary virus checks must first be carried out by the user. Blackadders is not responsible for the material found on any web sites linked to this one and links to this site may only be made with Blackadders prior consent.


Blackadders owns the copyright in this blog and all material contained on it. The material on this site may be downloaded for personal use only and must not be altered. Otherwise, Blackadders’ written consent is required before any material on this site is reproduced, copied or transmitted in any way.

Privacy Statement

Information passed to us via this site is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except if authorised by you or required by law.

© Blackadders LLP 2022

Members of the Law Society of Scotland.

Blackadders Solicitors is a trading name of Blackadders LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in Scotland No SO301600 whose registered office is 30 & 34 Reform Street, Dundee, DD1 1RJ. Reference to a ‘partner’ is to a member of Blackadders LLP.

Back to Business Legal News from Blackadders Solicitors