Zero-hours contracts: Public consultation begins in Northern Ireland

By Julian O'Neill
BBC News NI Business Correspondent

image captionEmployment Minister Stephen Farry said the consultation would also focus on exclusivity clauses that prevent people on some zero-hours contracts taking other types of work

The use of zero-hours employment contracts in Northern Ireland is to be examined with a view to possible regulation.

Employment Minister Stephen Farry has launched a 14-week consultation.

He said zero-hours contracts, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, are "increasingly common."

Based on UK-wide research, Mr Farry previously suggested 28,000 people could be on zero-hours contracts in NI.

Launching the consultation, the minister said: "It will establish potential policy proposals where regulation, or the development of unambiguous guidance for both employers and employees, may be required."

The consultation will end on 29 September.


UK-wide, zero-hours contracts are most prevalent in the hospitality and social care sectors.

Typically, an employee works fewer than 21 hours a week, with average pay of £236.

In general terms, a zero-hours contract is an employment contract in which the employer does not guarantee the individual any work and the individual is not obliged to accept any work offered.

Employers are said to like their flexibility.

But unions claim there are many drawbacks, including no guarantees of regular earnings.

Mr Farry also said an area of focus of his consultation will be the use of exclusivity clauses that prevent people on some zero-hours contracts taking other types of work.

He said: "If people are to have confidence in the use of zero-hours contracts then we need to consider how best to regulate them in ways that promote the interests of both employers and employees."

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