What do locum vets, nurses and 90% of Sports Direct workers have in common?
Zero hour contracts …Don’t pretend that comment didn’t fill you with dread for just a second! But it isn’t all doom and gloom! In fact, you can certainly get a lot out of a zero hours contract-flexibility being top of the list! 
It is likely that most if not all of the corporate groups will be switching to offering contractors (locums) zero hour contracts (or umbrella payments) as an alternative to limited company service providers in order to pay you with the dawning of IR35. So, it is important to get yourself up to speed with some key fundamentals! 
A zero hour contract is just that: it is a contract between you and a practice whereby you are not obliged to commit to any hours unless you want them and at the same time, they aren’t obliged to offer you any. You can literally do hours from none to full time with one employer if you like. 
When agreeing a zero-hour contract it is important to state whether you are an employee or a worker. 
What is the difference between an employee and a worker? 
In it's simplest format, an employee doesn't have the flexibility that a worker does. They have to show up to work, can't send someone in their place and can't refuse shifts. A worker can accept or decline shifts, and can't be disciplined if they don't show up to work (other than obviously not being paid and maybe not being offered future work there). 

Workers are entitled to: 
minimum or living wage (we would hope most of you are on more than this anyway)
paid holiday (this will vary based on if you are a long term locum in one place or if you are working on a more ad hoc basis at multiple practices)
rest breaks 
protection against discrimination, overwork and unlawful wage deductions.
Employees are entitled to the above plus: 
protection against unfair dismissal 
minimum notice period
time off for emergencies (pay at the employers discretion)
How many zero hour contracts can I have? 
You can have as many zero hours contracts as you like. There is nothing a practice can do about you working at another site or for another business despite any stipulations in a contract. The more you have it may complicate your tax code, but this is something that is easily dealt with. So, if you work for 3-4 corporates then you don’t need to worry too much! 
What if I am sick on my zero hours contract? 

You qualify for sick pay when working on a zero hours contract if:
  • you have worked for a company for 8 weeks and take an average of £118 per week or more in earnings
  • you are ill for FOUR DAYS OR MORE

You DO NOT get sick pay for the first three days of any illness (sorry guys). Again, be ultra careful with any contractual negotiations as self-employed workers DO NOT have to be given sick pay. There is a big grey area over this-see Uber vs Drivers from 2016. 

Can I still run a limited company? 
The short answer to this is yes you can. It is worth speaking to your accountant about whether this is financially viable based on how much of your work you do through the zero hours contracts. Work that you do that is outside of IR35 can be run through your limited company. You can run all your work though a limited BUT the end user company need to OK this as they are liable for the PAYE and NI contributions if they have 2 or more of:
·      more than 50 staff
·      a turnover of >£10.2million
·      a balance sheet of >£5.1 million
For some of you, the right move may be to look at taking a dive into an employed position. For employers, this is a massive opportunity to offer the veterinary workforce some flexibility and improve working conditions for many employees-we can but hope. There is still a shortage of vets and nurses and as such, you still can vote with your feet as it were. As always, the most important factor is finding a way to get the profession to work for you! 
If you want an informal chat about the implications of zero hours contracts then do feel free to get in touch
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