The number of zero-hours contracts has increased dramatically in the care sector. This continues to pave the way for zero hours workers to be engaged - without an obligation to make work available. 

The use of zero-hours contracts has jumped from one in ten to one in seven in the care sector over the past year alone. It's important for employers to remember that, while zero-hours contracts can provide an effective way to engage workers, they shouldn't be lulled into thinking that there's no requirement to provide a number of legal rights. In many cases, there will be.

Care workers engaged under zero-hours contracts will normally be classed as a worker or an employee, depending on the employment relationship between the parties. Both worker and employee status provides for a number of legal rights, one of which is the entitlement to receive the national minimum wage.

While it is evident the care workers should receive national minimum wage for the time they are engaged to carry out work, there appears to be a question about whether the time they spend travelling should be classed as working time.

The working time regulations state that travelling time will be treated as working time where travel is a requirement of the job role.  It's clear that there will be a requirement for care workers to travel when they are providing home care.

Care workers contracted as workers or employees under zero-hours contracts should be afforded protection under the working time and national minimum wage regulations. Any employer failing to comply with these requirements will be depriving workers of the rights they're entitled to.

The widespread use of zero-hours contracts in this sector appears to be deterring workers from raising issues over their rights with their employers or pursuing claims. As, if unsuccessful, they could lose out on work. As a result, a number of workers could be falling short of what they are entitled to.