Zero Hours Contracts

According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS,, a zero-hours contract is a type of contract between an employer and a worker where:

  • your employer does not have to give you any minimum working hours; and

  • you do not have to take any work offered.

Workers on zero hours contracts can sometimes find that existing legal protections are not being understood or enforced and perhaps just disregarded by some employers.

Some of our other clients, like Nadia*, have reported that employers have asked them to change their contract to one which was less secure with fewer rights.


Nadia was working as a head chef in a pub on a permanent contract of 40 hours a week. She had to take some time off sick ten weeks into her pregnancy and was given instructions by her doctor that she should not work in a hot environment such as a kitchen. She discussed this with her employer who didn’t offer alternative work on the same basis but instead offered her work as a waitress on a zero hours contract with no guarantee of any hours.

Nadia called into see us at Citizens Advice as she was unsure of her rights. She had not been employed for two full years and knew this might affect her situation.

Our adviser:

  • explained to Nadia that she should have been protected from having her contract or hours changed against her will just because she was pregnant
  • explained to her that if her hours were reduced this would have an impact on her eligibility for Statutory Maternity Pay’
  • helped Nadia write a letter to her manager asking him to reconsider her situation, pointing out that if suitable work could not be provided on the same basis as before, she was entitled to stop work on full pay.

*Names and circumstances have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

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