Zero Hours Contracts

Created on: 09 Apr 2014 | Last modified: 22 Apr 2020

The key findings of the EIS survey include:

• Women were statistically more likely to hold zero hours contracts than men (60.6% of ZHC holders were identified as women by Colleges), suggesting that the use of zero hours contracts is potentially discriminatory. Every College that used zero hours contracts identified a majority of holders as women.

• Most Colleges had not (as of 01 August 2013) carried out Equality Impact Assessments into the use of zero hours contracts.

• Most Colleges in Scotland use some form of zero hours contract, 10 of the thirty questioned. Two of the 18 Colleges stated that they did not issue zero hours contracts to academic/teaching staff.

• Different Colleges give different rights and benefits to zero hours staff resulting in a range of practices across Scotland. Most Colleges define zero hours contract holders as "employees” and clearly seek to give zero hours contract holders the same rights as employees albeit without any security  of hours by giving benefits which include occupational sick pay, occupational maternity pay, equitable pension etc.

• A few Colleges give minimal rights under law to their zero hours contract holders and define them as "workers”. These Colleges do not pay occupational sick leave nor occupational paternity and maternity benefits. The EIS believes that these Colleges are seeking to avoid their responsibilities as employers to these zero hours staff- many of whom may have worked for the College  for years. (Examples: Ayrshire College, Dundee College, North Highland College, Forth Valley College, Edinburgh College – Granton Campus.

• Most Colleges stated that they give payment in lieu of holidays (i.e. rolled up holiday pay) – with a number also offering paid leave as an option. The EIS believes that this practice is unlawful as it means that zero hours contract holders do not receive 28 days (pro rata) of paid time off and Employers should only pay staff in lieu of holidays upon termination of their contracts. The EIS also believes that Employers must pay their employees at the time they take their leave. (

• Most Colleges give zero hours contract staff the same holiday entitlement (albeit as payment in lieu) as permanent employees – the highest being 30%. Some Colleges give zero hours contract holders the statutory minimum 28 days pro rata (8.3% (i.e. the minimum stated by the Working Time Regulations). This means that some zero hours staff are receiving between 8.3% and 30% holiday pay – depending on which College they work at.

• No College uses "exclusivity clauses” within their zero hours contracts – which is good news from the EIS FoI request.

• Only one College has a zero hours contract complaint/appeal process and all seem to rely on grievance procedures.

• Most Colleges apply their disciplinary policies to cover periods between work as well as during work. This could lead to a zero hours contract holder being disciplined in September for breaching a Colleges policy despite not working since the preceding October.

• It is not only the large Colleges that use large numbers of zero hours contracts – proportionally speaking Moray College had for example 133 zhc holders which is the proportion of zero hours contract staff within the FE sector.

• There is no common definition of a zero hours contract within the Scottish FE sector, in fact some Colleges seem to believe that a zero hours contract needs to include an obligation to accept offered work.

Download PDF