Can retail staff benefit from zero-hour contracts?

Zero-hour contracts have become an increasingly contentious issue affecting the retail sector. High-profile commentators have argued that they create an insecure and vulnerable workforce.

Nevertheless, the number of retail employees on zero-hours has risen in recent years and the Office for National Statistics recently revealed that approximately 75,000 retail staff are currently contracted under them.

Because a third of retail employees are under 25, is it feasible that such contracts could suit their needs rather than hinder them?

Sally Hulston, employment lawyer at Addleshaw Goddard, says: “The flexibility of zero-hours contracts can be a huge advantage to some, such as young people who combine working with studies, and women with childcare responsibilities.”

Greater regulation introduced in May is a further boost as workers are now free to enter into several zero-hours contracts with different businesses at the same time.

Zero-hours workers will also benefit from the new national living wage, which comes into force in April next year. Some retailers have already begun to pay in line with this.

“The question is whether retailers will favour recruiting younger workers on a zero-hours basis and reduce the number of hours of work offered when the worker reaches 25,” says Hulston.

“This strategy might help keep total labour costs down but it could risk age discrimination claims as older workers lose out on work. Such practices are also likely to attract negative press attention.”


In association with Addleshaw Goddard