Zero hours Contracts – Are they still worth it?

Zero-hours contracts have been around for quite some time and have been a topic of debate in the employment world. On the one hand, they offer flexibility and convenience to both employers and employees. On the other hand, they can lead to uncertainty and instability in the workplace and come with their fair share of challenges, especially regarding holiday and sick pay. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of zero-hour contracts and discuss whether they are still worth it for workers and employers.

Understanding Zero-Hour Contracts

Zero-hour contracts are employment agreements in which employers do not guarantee a set number of working hours to their employees. Instead, workers can be asked to work when needed. These contracts provide employers with the flexibility to adjust their workforce according to demand, making them particularly popular in industries like retail, hospitality, and healthcare.

Are Zero-Hour Contracts Worth It for Employees?

Zero-hour contracts can offer certain benefits for employees, such as flexibility and the opportunity to gain work experience. They may be suitable for individuals who have other commitments, such as students, parents, or retirees, as they can choose when to work. However, the lack of guaranteed hours can lead to income instability, making it difficult for some to make ends meet.

When it comes to holiday pay, zero-hour contract workers are still entitled to paid time off, but calculating this can be challenging since their hours vary. The general approach is employers should be calculating annual leave and payment for permanent zero hours workers who only work part of the year on the basis of 5.6 weeks over 52 weeks. To calculate a week’s pay based on the average earnings in the 52 weeks leading up to the holiday. If an employee hasn’t worked for the full 52 weeks, the average of the weeks they did work is used.

Sick pay is another area of concern. Zero-hour contract workers are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they meet the criteria. The amount they receive will vary based on their average earnings. SSP is paid for up to 28 weeks of sickness.

Employers must ensure that they treat workers fairly, and not penalize them for taking sick leave or using their holiday entitlement. Failure to do so can lead to legal consequences.

Are Zero-Hour Contracts Worth It for Employers?

For employers, zero-hour contracts can provide the flexibility needed to manage varying workloads and respond to changes in demand. They can also be cost-effective, as employers are not obliged to provide a minimum number of hours, reducing labour costs when work is slow.

However, there are criticisms regarding the treatment of workers on zero-hour contracts. Some argue that these contracts create an imbalance of power between employers and employees, with workers having little job security or stability. Additionally, the use of zero-hour contracts has led to concerns about the quality of work and employee well-being.

In terms of calculating holiday pay for zero-hour contract workers, employers need to track and average out their earnings over a 52-week reference period. They should be aware that taking holidays is an employee’s legal right, and any efforts to discourage or penalize them for doing so are not only unethical but also illegal.


Zero-hour contracts in the UK offer a level of flexibility that can be beneficial for both employers and employees. However, the effectiveness and ethics of these contracts continue to be debated. When considering whether zero hour contracts are worth it, it’s crucial for both parties to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, particularly when it comes to holiday and sick pay.

Calculating holiday and sick pay for zero-hour contract workers requires careful attention to the relevant laws and regulations. Workers and employers alike should be well-informed about their rights and obligations in order to ensure fair treatment and compliance with the law. Ultimately, the decision to enter into a zero-hour contract should be made with a full understanding of the advantages and disadvantages they entail.

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