Empowering the Freelance Economy

What to consider before signing a zero-hours contract

With the Labour Party calling for a ban on zero-hours contracts is wise to understand what your rights are now if you are on such a contract
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A CIPD report on zero-hours contracts may have been intended for employers, but it offers insights for freelancers.  Here are key points for freelancers to know about zero-hours contracts.

1. Know Your Rights:

  • Minimum Wage: You’re entitled to at least the National Minimum Wage for every hour worked.
  • Paid Holiday: Accrues even on irregular hours.
  • Rest Breaks: Entitled to these during work days.
  • Discrimination Protection: Same as any worker.
  • No Exclusivity: Can’t be stopped from seeking other work.

2. Contract Negotiation is Key:

  • Don’t be pressured: Take time to understand the terms.
  • Clarify expectations: Hours, pay, notice periods, etc.
  • Negotiate rate: Reflecting skills, not just minimum wage.
  • Written terms: Verbal agreements are risky.

3. Record Keeping is Essential:

  • Track hours meticulously: This proves what you’re owed.
  • Pay stubs/statements: Keep them organised.
  • Expense records: If relevant to your work.

4. Tax & Financial Preparedness:

  • Self-assessment likely: Budget for tax, it’s not withheld.
  • Income fluctuations: Have savings to cover lean periods.
  • Expense deductions: Know what’s allowable to offset tax.

5. Diversification & Backup Plans:

  • Don’t rely solely on one contract: Seek multiple income streams.
  • Network: Build relationships for potential work leads.
  • Upskill: Make yourself more marketable for varied work and clients.

6. Support & Community:

  • Freelancer unions/associations: Offer advice, templates, etc.
  • Online forums: Connect with others in similar situations.

What else should you consider?

  • Zero-hours ≠ freelancing: You’re a worker, not a business owner.
  • Benefits: Usually minimal (e.g., no sick pay, pension).
  • Long-term security: Not guaranteed, so plan accordingly.

Read the CIPD report here.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. If unsure, consult a professional familiar with employment law in your jurisdiction.

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