Zero Hour Contracts and the Spa Industry

What is a zero hour contract?

A zero hour contract is one whereby an employer employs staff to be available for work when the company requires it.  For example: when the spa has busy periods like Christmas and Easter.  The Therapist therefore receives no specific days or hours of work. The Therapist is almost ‘on-call’ so will need to be flexible as times of work will frequently change.  In the spa industry these contracts are also sometimes known as ‘Bank work’.

Factors that have led to an increase in zero hour contracts

These types of contracts have shown a dramatic increase within recent years due to the flexibility that they provide to employees and employers.

In a struggling economy some spas and similar companies may have found that business has fluctuated more than usual even in customarily busy periods.  With zero hour contracts it enables the employee to not be tied to employing therapists on a full time wage where the funds may not be as accessible to do so.

How zero hour contracts benefit the spa

First and foremost it means that the company is not obliged to offer the Therapist work which is extremely useful during quieter periods (generally January/February time).  It is also very useful if there are sudden staff shortages for example sickness of staff or resignation.  Even for planned staff shortage when annual leave is taken by other staff members zero hour contract staff can fill-in.  Within the spa industry there are also usually frequent events and VIP occasions where more Therapists will be required to meet demand, therefore it enables the business to run to its full capacity.

Lastly zero hour contract employees are generally of less expense to the business than agency workers.

Positive factors of zero hour contacts to therapists:

The benefits to the Therapist allow them to almost ‘pick and choose’ when they wish to work.  It is extremely convenient to staff who may have a family or second job as the hours can be more flexible. You as a Therapist, thus have every right to turn-down work if necessary.

It can also be a good way to gain enough experience within the spa industry to possibly secure a full time position.  This is ideal for newly qualified therapists who have maybe completed the first part of their qualification for example NVQ2, and are now qualified to perform some treatments. The flexibility of the hours can be great for working around study and college time.

Although in some spa industries annual leave is accrued over time this will generally be a set amount after one year of employment.

Negative factors of zero hour contracts to therapists

The main downside of these contracts for employees is the unpredictability of the work.  In other words a Therapist would not be able to rely on regular wages and commission as from one month to the next the hours can change. It does not therefore provide financial stability.  Some spas may give you a regular rota for a period of time but then the employer has every right to change these hours to suit the needs of the business.

The same demands can work the other way, if you turn down any work for a period of time then the employer has every right to offer regular staff members work before yourself which can sometimes lead to bad feelings within a team of Therapists.

The unreliability of these contracts has become a huge debate as people feel their employee rights are not as stable and secure.

Another common problem with some zero hour contracts is where employees turn up to work expecting a full day’s work and pay, however if the spa suddenly becomes quiet the employee has every right to send you home with only the relevant hours worked paid to you.

Lastly, it can also be difficult to arrange childcare at such last minute requests and sick pay is often not included in the package.  Within some zero hour contracts it does specify that if hours are frequently refused then disciplinary action may be taken along with termination of the contract. 

How Therapists can legally protect themselves within the zero hour contract

Therapists under this contract have the same employment rights as permanently contracted workers.  You as a therapist are entitled to annual leave and at least the minimum wage payable.  Your company is also responsible for paying your tax and national insurance so it is not necessary for you to organise this like with a self-employed contract.

Within these contracts you are entitled to statutory notice period, therefore your employer equally can not terminate your contract when you are not needed unless a disciplinary process has taken place.   

In any instance of the therapist feeling they are not being treated fairly they can take this up with an ‘employment tribunal’.  Within this they would assess the contract and any rights they feel you may have. This also applies to maternity rights and pay.  You must still be treated as equally as any other staff member and should not be discriminated against in any way.  Even if you do not actually have a written contract (which you should always ask for) you still have a contract of sorts.  This means that you have certain rights and conditions to protect you like any other member of staff.

Summary

I would summarise to say that zero hour contracts are of extreme use to those wanting spa industry experience or work to revolve around children or study, however this type of work should not be relied upon and is not a financially stable way of employment when you have payable commitments.  Flexibility is the key factor of a zero hour contract for both employer and employee.

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