Zero-hour contract changes announced

  • 12/07/2015
(Photo: Simon Wong/ 3 News)
(Photo: Simon Wong/ 3 News)

Unfair provisions in zero-hour contracts are being outlawed but casual employment will still be possible under changes to employment law the Government is proposing.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse announced employment law changes today, saying the Government can't set a rule for every employment situation but it can set principles.

Zero-hour contracts have been controversial as they can require employees to be available for work at any time but don't guarantee any hours. Unions and the Labour Party detest them.

Mr Woodhouse says there's no legal definition of zero-hour contracts but he's concerned about aspects of them.

It was unfair that employers did not have to commit to a minimum number of hours but expected the employee to be available for work when required, he told the Q+A programme today.

"I think that's unfair, it's unbalanced and it's going to be unlawful," he said.

Where the employer and employee agree to a set amount of hours, they will be required to state these up front in the employment agreement.

Apart from that both the employee and employer will be free to commit to or refuse work on a casual basis.

It will be unlawful for employers to constrain people from working for other employers unless there are good reasons for doing so.

Employees will also receive reasonable compensation for being on call but the law will not be specific about amounts, Mr Woodhouse told Q+A.

CTU president Helen Kelly said the proposals were very unclear and the minister should outlaw zero-hour contracts completely.