The 'Zero-Hours Contract': Regulating Casual Work, or Legitimating Precarity?

22 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2015 Last revised: 5 Mar 2019

See all articles by Abi Adams

Abi Adams

University of Oxford - Department of Economics

Mark R. Freedland

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Jeremias Prassl

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2015

Abstract

Zero-Hours Contracts have become one of the most high-profile employment law issues of recent years. In this article, we analyse the legal and empirical evidence of work under Zero-Hours arrangements and suggest that whilst a legal engagement with Zero-Hours Contracts as an unresolved labour market problem is long overdue, the current discourse surrounding these work arrangements is fundamentally flawed: there is no such thing as the Zero-Hours Contract as a singular category; the label serves as no more than a convenient shorthand for masking the explosive growth of precarious work for a highly fragmented workforce. Ongoing attempts at regulating Zero-Hours Contracts thus constitute a significant shift towards the normalisation of all but the most extreme forms of abusive employment arrangements, leaving a rapidly increasing number of workers without recourse to employment protective norms. In concluding, we indicate ways towards a more coherent approach to the de-normalisation and progressive regulation of this large and growing set of casual work arrangements.

Keywords: Zero-Hours Contract, Precarious Work, Contracts Without Guaranteed Hours, Employment Law, Social Security, Mutuality of Obligation, Labour Force Survey, Small Business Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014-15

Suggested Citation

Adams, Abi and Freedland, Mark R. and Prassl, Jeremias, The 'Zero-Hours Contract': Regulating Casual Work, or Legitimating Precarity? (February 1, 2015). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11/2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2507693

Abi Adams

University of Oxford - Department of Economics ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Mark R. Freedland

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

Jeremias Prassl (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

Magdalen College
Oxford, OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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