In the case of Roddis v Sheffield Hallam University, the Claimant was an associate lecturer who was employed under a contract that the Employment Tribunal had defined as being a clear example of a zero hours contract.  Although the Claimant had a contract of employment, it specified that the Claimant’s hours of work would vary according to the workload being offered by the Employer.  The contract also detailed that the Claimant’s working hours could be as few as zero hours per week.

After having accepted more than 30 offers of employment from the Employer spanning a number of years, the Claimant brought a number of claims against the Employer, including a claim of less favourable treatment on the basis of being a part-time worker.

The Employment Tribunal had dismissed this particular claim on the basis that, whilst the Claimant was comparing his treatment to that of a lecturer on a full-time contract (his ‘comparator’), his zero hours contract as an associate lecturer was not comparable to the full-time contract of an academic lecturer as it did not guarantee work.

On appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered whether the Claimant and his chosen comparator were employed under the same type of contract.  The EAT held that the Claimant and his comparator were indeed employed under the same type of contract and remitted the outstanding issues in the claim to be heard by the Employment Tribunal.

In comparing the contracts of the two employees, the EAT considered the Part-Time Workers (Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (‘the Regulations’) and the case law surrounding this issue.  The EAT considered that the Tribunal had failed to look at the two contracts in their broadest sense and acknowledge that, in their essence, they were both contracts of employment.

The EAT also held that a zero hours contract was not necessarily different to a contract of employment for the purposes of Regulation 2 of the Regulations, which addresses the respective meanings of full-time, part-time and comparable full-time workers for the purposes of this area of law.  Its reasoning was that if a part-time worker (possibly operating on a zero hours basis) was not able to compare him or herself to a full-time worker then the Regulations themselves would be meaningless.

Comment

This case is notable not purely for the decision made within it, but also for reviewing and streamlining the case law on Regulation 2 of the Regulations.  Indeed, certain parts of the judgment seem to look further afield than the distinction between part-time and full-time workers.

For example, perhaps tellingly the EAT held that a contract cannot be treated as being different to another simply because the contracts do not share the same terms and conditions, nor because an employer chooses to treat the workers who are governed by those contracts differently.

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