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Employees now have the right to take employers to an employment tribunal if they are punished for breach of an exclusivity clause in their zero hour contract.

Under such contracts, staff members are not guaranteed any set hours meaning that their wage can vary from week to week, or they can be effectively frozen out of employment. While many companies opt to use zero-hour contracts, some also inserted an exclusivity clause meaning that they could fairly dismiss or prevent an employee from working for another organisation without consent.

Although such clauses have been banned since May 2015, the start of 2016 grants workers the powers to take legal action if they are still forced into such an agreement. The legislation gives workers working under a zero hours contract the right to complain to an employment tribunal where they are dismissed or suffer a detriment for working for another employer or asking their employer for permission to do so.

The government guidance reads: “An employer must allow the individual to take work elsewhere to earn an income if they do not offer sufficient hours.

“If an employer includes an exclusivity clause in a zero hours contract, the individual cannot be bound by it, the law states the individual can ignore it.

“An employer must not attempt to avoid the exclusivity ban by, for example, stipulating that the individual must seek their permission to look for or accept work elsewhere.”

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Business Secretary Vince Cable has this week launched a consultation into how best to tackle the problem of zero hour contracts. Cable is asking businesses, unions and individuals to help highlight and close potential ‘loopholes’ in the governments plan to outlaw the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts.

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Hiring intentions in the United Kingdom (UK) as a whole, are at their highest level since the recession, whilst Scotland's employment outlook is at a seven year high. Therefore, employers wishing to add to their workforce, must ensure that contracts of employment are properly drafted.

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