Casual Contracts, otherwise known as “Zero Hours Contracts” have had a lot of bad press over recent years. Which is a shame because they’re a great business tool and offer flexible employment to people who – for whatever reason – don’t want a regular job. So what’s the problem?

It’s a misunderstanding really. That same old problem… managers don’t go into management to be employment law experts and the law gets complicated! Things change, they roll with it, before they know it Things. Get. Messy.

Why would I want to use Casual Contracts anyway?
Sometimes you just need people to work for you on an ad-hoc basis because your business – or at least that job – is based on a need that changes week to week. You want to be able to call people up as and when you need them, which might not be all that often. The drawback is that, while you have no obligation to offer them any work, they also have no obligation to take it when it is offered. So there’s no guarantee that they’ll be available when you need them.

“Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the contract says, the law will look at the reality of the job. If you’re giving casual workers regular hours but with a zero-hours contract, you could hit trouble.”

When SHOULD I use Casual Contracts?
Casual Contracts / Zero-Hours Contracts are for use when you don’t want to commit to giving someone hours regularly. So for example, let’s say you run a shop . You employ as many staff as you need to run that shop. All great until the summer holidays when people are away and things get tight. This is an ideal scenario to take someone on to cover as and when they’re needed on a casual contract. You don’t have regular weekly hours to provide – it’s no good offering someone a contract to work 20 hours per week if you don’t have 20 hours to give them every week and in reality the hours are going to vary wildly.

When SHOULDN’T I use Casual Contracts?
In a nutshell, if you’re going to offer someone hours regularly, you should do it on a regular employment contract. Even if those hours might vary, let’s say you’re going to need that person definitely for 20 hours per week, but you might actually be able to give them extra hours. In this case, you should give them an employment contract for 20 hours per week and treat anything extra as overtime.

The other consideration is whether you really need continuity. If you want to guarantee that someone is going to come in to work (ignoring sick leave or other leave entitlements), you need an employee. But if you have say 10 people on a casual register and you don’t mind which one of them does the work, then casual could be the way to go.

Why is it a big deal?
Well, it’s a big deal for the person doing the work. If they’re a casual, then in law they have “WORKER” status. That means that they still get accrued holiday pay (but paid in a different way) but they may not qualify for other employment rights, such as sick pay, parental leave, notice pay, the right to transfer under TUPE if the business is sold or their function is outsourced… and so on. They have no guarantee of being offered any work at all.

And of course, it’s a big deal for the employer if they suddenly find they’ve got it horribly wrong and end up with a tribunal or a claim for a cost they hadn’t considered.

Flexibility can work both ways, so why do Casual Contracts have such a bad name?
The problem comes when an employer tells someone they’re a Casual Worker, gives them a Zero-Hours casual contract and then treats them as an employee – in all but their employment rights. So they start giving them regular hours, they expect them to come into work each week, they accrue holiday pay in the wrong way… but then when it comes to time off sick, there’s no SSP because that’s what the contract says. Or they outsource the department and don’t include the Casual Workers on the transfer to the new employer, because they’re not employees. Or they decide they don’t need them anymore after a few years and don’t consult or pay any redundancy pay… because that’s what the contract says.

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the contract says, the law will look at the reality of the job. If you’re giving casual workers regular hours but with a zero-hours contract, you could hit trouble.

If you’re now looking at your business’s situation thinking “ok now I’m really not sure whether I’m doing this right”, you might benefit from signing up to HR on Tap’s service. Drop us an email to see how we can help!

Reducing staff numbers is one of the hardest jobs a manager has to do. When you’ve got to know your team, having to single some of them out to tell them they no longer have a job can be really tough. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Follow these tips and you should come through the other side with your employees’ respect intact.

  1. Have a sound business reason for making reductions – the more logical your argument, the easier it will be for your team to understand and accept.
  2. Communicate fully and regularly with your team, as a group, individually and in writing, even with individuals you know are not likely to lose their job. From the employee’s perspective, no news is NOT good news.
  3. Involve your employees. They may well think of alternatives that you didn’t. Don’t assume that they don’t understand your big picture, you may be surprised at some of the great suggestions you receive to avoid job losses.
  4. Listen. Even to daft ideas that you know will never work. Even to angry rants. Even to questions you think you’ve already answered several times (you probably need to re-phrase the answer)
  5. Never use redundancy as an excuse to weed out poor performers. If people aren’t performing well, you should be managing them through an entirely different process. Redundancy is an easy cop-out that’s likely to land you in a tribunal with an employee who doesn’t believe there is a fair answer to “why me?”
  6. Never make promises you’re not 100% certain you can keep. This is the quickest way to lose respect and trust and will jeopardise the whole process.
  7. Focus on the future. Securing a new job quickly – and it being the RIGHT new job is a key priority for most people going through redundancy. Businesses can be really proactive in helping redundant employees to find work. It’s much more than helping put a cv together – it’s inviting recruitment agents in to talk to staff, contacting businesses who might have jobs for them, helping individuals to get through the psychological process of losing their job and moving on. This is the critical part that most businesses forget, yet from the employee’s perspective is the most important.
  8. Don’t forget the people who are staying. You’ve just completely changed the dynamic of their team and their work environment. Your remaining team also have a psychological process to go through. They may “grieve” the loss of their colleagues and question their own security. This is a vulnerable time for employees to start looking for work elsewhere. If you want to retain their loyalty to you, they must see that you have treated their
    colleagues fairly and that you recognise that it’s been hard on them too.
  9. Seek professional guidance if you’re not confident with doing this yourself. The damage that poorly handled redundancy processes cause can cost your business far more in the long run.

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”24157363″]

Even some of the most experienced managers don’t think about number 5…!

When an employee misbehaves in some way, you might sometimes need to bring them back onto the right track, or in extreme cases remove them from your employment. The disciplinary process is the correct way to deal with these issues. But however justified you are in taking action, getting it wrong can land you in some very messy – and expensive – trouble.

The worst part is that even when you KNOW you’re right, defending yourself in Tribunal can be seriously expensive, even if you win! So your job is not just to make a fair decision, but to make the employee feel the decision was fair. Not quite the same thing.

So here’s the top 5 things you absolutely must stick to, as part of a fair process that also keeps you out of tribunal.

Continue Reading…