No hours guaranteed, but not a zero hours contract

I’m currently involved in an employment dispute with my employer. I have been employed since 2010 first on three subsequent fixed-term contracts and since 2013 on a permanent contract. My contract states that there are no hours guaranteed but when challenged, my employer claims it is not a zero-hours contract but a standard part-time contract. My hours do vary from semester to semester and are announced around six weeks before the start of each semester. I only get paid when I work which means that between June and September I receive no salary. I also do not receive paid annual leave as it is incorporated into my salary. My contract states I am entitled to 21 days pro-rata plus seven bank holidays. There is no information on incorporation neither in my contract nor on payslips. Although I am required to request annual leave, I do not get paid when I take time off. My employer claims it is a very common and standard procedure for the majority of businesses. But is it legal?

My second issue concerns terms of employment.  I have repeatedly asked for a fractional contract as I do teach regular hours every year. My employer refuses claiming there are not enough hours to make it a fractional contract with a set salary paid over 12 months. My department is now employing another part-time, temporary, paid per contact hours, term-time only person to teach exactly what I am teaching. I feel I am not offered these hours as they would amount to a full-time workload. As a result my employers could no longer justify the reasons behind my current contract. Can they do it?

It sounds as if your employer is paying “rolled up” holiday pay. This is technically a breach of the rules on holiday pay but a widely used practice where hours of work vary making calculation of paid holiday entitlement complicated. Provided that it is clear to you how much of your pay relates to pay for work done and how much represents holiday pay, if you were to bring a claim for paid holiday, the amounts you had already received would be “set off” against any claim. It is usual for employers to set out in the contract or payslip an additional percentage or additional sum on the hourly rate that represents payment in advance for holiday pay.

There is no right to request that a zero hours contract is converted into a contract with guaranteed working hours or that a part-time worker is offered additional hours. There is therefore nothing to stop your employer employing another member of staff to teach the same subject.

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