The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBEEA 2015) was announced in the Queen's speech in 2014.  The proposed Act was then introduced as a Government Bill to the House of Commons.  The most notable area of legislative reform proposed by the Act and indeed, the most publicised, was the provisions in relation to a ban on exclusivity in zero hours contracts.

The purpose, however, of the Act was to cover a number of areas of legislative reform with a stated intention to reduce the barriers that could hinder ability of small business to innovate, grow and compete.

In the main, the employment provisions contained in the Act require a commencement date before coming into force.  On 26 May 2015, however, certain provisions including a zero hours exclusivity ban came into force.  The Act also enables the Government to introduce further provisions in relation to zero hours contracts generally.

The effect of the regulations is to ban exclusivity clauses in contracts that do not guarantee hours of work.  This will enable a worker to do work or perform services under another contract or arrangement and indeed to do so without the employer's consent.

The Government did, however, acknowledge during the consultation process that it would be straight forward for employers to side step the exclusivity ban, for example, by offering contracts that guarantee just one hour of work or alternatively by providing no work to individuals who choose to work for other employers.

It is anticipated that further regulation will follow to include penalties for employers who circumvent the exclusivity ban and indeed the means by which individuals who suffer detrimental treatment can complain to the Employment Tribunal.

In the meantime, zero hours contracts remain a much debated topic.  Acas has indicated that further to research carried out by them many workers were unaware that they were on a zero hours contract or indeed wrongly believed that they were permanent employees.  Acas has committed to producing further guidance on the use of zero hours contracts for both employers and workers in order to raise awareness and reduce uncertainty.

Posted on: 23/06/2015

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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