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

TitleThe 'Zero-Hours Contract': Regulating Casual Work, or Legitimating Precarity?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsAdams, Abi, Freedland, Mark R., and Prassl, Jeremias
JournalUniversity of Oxford Legal Research Paper Series
Date Published2015///
Keywordscontracts without guaranteed hours, employment law, labor force survey, mutuality of obligation, precarious work, social security, zero-hours contract

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.