New rules that ban exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts come into force today, as part of provisions introduced under the last government.
Previously employers could use exclusivity clauses to restrict contract staff from working for another company, even when they are offering them little or no work themselves. However, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 prohibits their use.
Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that just 1.8% of employees working in retail and wholesale - or 72,000 people - were employed on zero-hours contracts from October to December 2014. This accounts for less than 11% of the total number of UK workers employed on these contracts.
Sports Direct told a Scottish Affairs Committee in March that 15,000 of its UK employees, or 75% of its 19,000-strong workforce, were on zero-hours contracts. It is not known if the retailer uses exclusivity clauses.
But lawyers told The Guardian that there are no enforcement measures relating to the ban, which means workers on zero-hour contracts have no way of taking action against employers who break its terms.
Elizabeth George, an employment lawyer at Leigh Day, the company which is representing zero-hour workers at Sports Direct who claim that they were excluded from its bonus scheme, told the newspaper: “This piece of legislation says that employers can’t enforce these clauses in a zero-hours contract. But if they operate a policy of reducing or not offering hours to those who have work elsewhere there’s no right for workers to do anything about it.”