The Pros and Cons of Zero Hour Contracts

Looking for a job? Discover the pros and cons of zero hour contracts!

zero hour contract

Finding any job can be tricky in this day and age, and many employees are getting trapped in boring professions they didn't set out for. But everyone needs to get a job to pay the bills - so what’s the solution? Well, according to the 905,000 people (as reported by the Telegraph) in the UK on zero hour contracts, they are one potential answer.

Before taking the leap, check out the benefits and disadvantages of these unique contracts:

The Pros

Flexible Working Hours

Zero hour contracts are ideal for people who don’t want to work a standard 9-5 job and need flexibility in their working life. Students and working mums, in particular, find these kind of contracts a great way to work as you can turn down hours during busier times or holidays. It’s also good if you need to work around your class times, and would prefer evening work. In theory, you can take as long of a holiday as you want as you’re not contractually obliged.

The Opportunity to Work Multiple Jobs Simultaneously

The luxury of these contracts is that you can work a number of different jobs at the same time. As reported on payroll-compliance “As of 26th May 2015 new legislation came into force prohibiting employers to enforce an exclusivity clause which restricts workers to work for other employers”. If you are trying to find a new career path or want to test out different job roles before you commit, you can do so guilt free.

You’ll Gain Field Experience

When working in any role, it’s vital to remember that you’ll gain experience and skills to add to your CV. When you apply for future jobs, employers will favour you if you have a continuous history of work experience regardless of what sector it was in. You’ll also be able to determine what kind of job you would like to have on a long-term basis and narrow down your job search for a permanent position.

Entitled to Holiday Pay

Even on a zero hour contract, you are still entitled to the statutory annual leave. The number of days will depend on your working hours; therefore if you work more hours, then you will be entitled to more holiday pay. Before rejecting your next shift think about sitting on a sunny beach, cocktail in hand and being paid for it too!

It Can Lead to a Permanent Contract

Taking on a job with a zero hours contract can be a great way to get your foot in the door of a company you really want to work for if they don’t have a full-time, fixed contract available for you. Making yourself known by going above and beyond while you are working there can be a good way to put yourself ahead of the competition if a permanent contract should arise. Make the most of the flexibility by showing your availability to work at short notice and at unusual times.

Extra Income

As there are no set hours, one of the upsides is the ability to pack in extra hours as they become available, so if you need extra money, you might be able to work twice the hours you worked the previous month and earn extra cash.

Free Time

As you won’t be working a set 40 hours a week, you will have lots of free time for personal development. If you don’t have the necessary skills to pursue a new career, zero hour contracts will give you the time to study while you are working too. If you would like to learn a specific skill on the job, you could also consider completing an apprenticeship at the same time.

The Cons

Unpredictable Hours

The unpredictable hours can lead to a tricky life as you won’t be able to plan any social gatherings or chores around your work. You may also find that your social life will end up suffering as you won’t can’t plan what events you’ll be attending or when you can meet a friend for a drink.

You Can End up With Less Work Than Expected

Although at the beginning of your contract you’d been told you’d have an estimated amount of working hours per week, it can vary and you have no rights to change it. This can be tricky and will take a toll on your financial status.

You Can Be Sent Home When You’re Physically at Work

This controversial aspect of zero-hour contracts has been brought into the limelight recently as a study showed that “one in five employers (19%) say they tend to give contracted staff less than 48 hours notice of their shifts, figures from Citizens Advice reveal”. Employees are also being sent home once they’ve arrived at work, not even getting paid for their journey there.

Poor Communication

With zero hour contracts, you don’t have the same relationship you would have with your manager under a normal employment. This can lead to a lack of communication and make you feel insecure.

Lack of Security

With such minimal hours, you can lack financial security, especially if you have a mortgage to pay. You never know what you will be receiving each month and it can be hard to plan for the future. If you are working under 16 hours in the UK, you are also entitled to unemployment benefits that will tie you over.

No Set Working Hours

Not knowing when you'll work can make you feel restricted, especially if you are balancing more than one job, or if you have other responsibilities such as picking the kids up from school. Let your employee know of the times you definitely can’t work so you are clear from the start of your contract.

Can Be Dismissed at Any Time

Another setback is that according to the policy of the contract you can be made redundant without any prior warning. This can take an emotional toll on you as you won’t be given any time to digest the news and look for a new job.

Little Income

While it’s true that you may have the opportunity for extra hours, if a lot of staff in the company are on the same type of contract, there may not be enough hours for you and you may end up struggling to pay the bills some months. In this instance, it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you can’t find employment with another company.

Increased Pressure

Although the contract offers flexibility and in theory, you should be able to turn down work if you can’t do it, many companies, especially in hospitality will put the pressure on you to turn up to last minute shifts. You’ll feel guilty turning them down and it may result in you not being offered any more hours in the future.


Zero hour contracts aren’t for everyone, and may not be a permanent solution, it may be something to consider while you are transitioning from one career to another.

Have you been in a zero hour contract before? Has it worked for you? Drop us a comment in the section box below…