Zero-hours contracts: your rights

Karen Holden from A City Law Firm outlines your employment rights if you work on a zero-hours contract.

Gavel with employment written on it, representing employment law


2024 will see many new employment-related laws coming into effect, from a day one right to request flexible working to tougher protections from sexual harassment at work. But at the end of 2023 the Government announced changes to the law on annual leave for those who work term-time only or on zero-hour contracts. Karen Holden from A City Law Firm spells out in detail what rights zero-hours workers now have.

In the dynamic landscape of employment, zero-hour contracts have been a source of both flexibility and concern for many working parents. Recent law changes have aimed to address some of the challenges associated with these contracts, offering new protections and rights, but recent proposals can take people backwards too. This article explores the key updates and provides insights for working parents on navigating the evolving landscape of zero-hour contracts.

Understanding zero hour contracts

Zero-hour contracts are employment agreements where individuals work on an “as and when needed” basis, with no guaranteed hours. While these contracts offer flexibility, they can pose challenges for workers, especially parents seeking stability and financial security. There is no guarantee of work, but also no minimum hours required from the employer.

Recent law changes:

1. Employment benefits:
– Workers on zero-hour contracts are now entitled to the same employment benefits as their full-time counterparts, including holiday entitlement and sick pay. This ensures that they have access to essential benefits, promoting a healthier work-life balance.

2. Holiday entitlement:

Holiday is calculated on average hours worked and new rules will make a real difference. They mean that:

1. Accrual will be based on hours worked:
– Holiday entitlement is often calculated as a percentage of the hours worked. The statutory minimum holiday entitlement in the UK is 28 days, including the usual 20 days of paid leave plus the eight recognised public or bank holidays. This can be pro-rated for part-time or irregular hours.

2. Holiday will be calculated according to the 12.07% rule:
– A common method for calculating holiday entitlement on zero-hour contracts is the “12.07% rule”. According to this rule, an employee accrues 12.07% of their worked hours as paid leave. For example, if someone works 100 hours, they
would accrue 12.07 hours of paid leave.

The new rules mean that zero-rated workers must accrue leave before this is taken which may be a real hindrance for parents at the beginning of the year.

Compensation for last-minute cancellations:

New regulations also require employers to compensate workers for shifts that are cancelled at short notice. This provision helps protect working parents from sudden income fluctuations and encourages fair treatment.

Right to secondary employment:

Zero-hour contract employees now have the right to seek additional employment without facing repercussions from their primary employer. This change offers workers the opportunity to supplement their income when needed.
Contracts will obviously have their own terms and conditions which should be considered as well as statutory provisions.

Navigating the changes

1. Communication with employers:
– Establish open communication with your employer to discuss your preferences for more stable working hours. Proactively engaging in these conversations can contribute to finding solutions that meet both your needs and the employer’s requirements.

2. Understanding your rights:
– Familiarise yourself with the updated employment rights and benefits associated with zero-hour contracts. Being aware of your entitlements empowers you to assert your rights when needed.

3. Financial planning:
– Given the potential variability in income, working parents should prioritise financial planning. Create a budget that accounts for fluctuations and build an emergency fund to weather unexpected challenges.

4. Balancing work and family:
– Striking a balance between work and family life is crucial. Clearly communicate your availability and limitations to your employer, helping to establish boundaries that accommodate your parental responsibilities.

While zero-hour contracts continue to be a part of the employment landscape, recent law changes offer improved protections for working parents. By understanding their rights, communicating effectively, and engaging in strategic financial planning, parents on zero-hour contracts can navigate these changes with greater confidence and stability in their work and family life.

Staff policies and contract terms should be carefully understood and reviewed as well as statutory rights before entering into these agreements.

As UK law continues to disentangle itself from European law we will see more employment law changes and these should be monitored carefully.

To stay updated with recent employment law changes and to find out how it could potentially
affect you, visit

*Karen Holden is founder of A City Law Firm.

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