Can I claim injury compensation on a zero-hours contract?

Updated: October 19, 2022

If you were injured in at work you may be able to claim compensation, even if you were self-employed, an agency worker or working on a zero-hours contract.

See also: Claim work injury compensation

Duty of care

A 'duty of care' is the legal obligation of an individual, organisation or business, to keep others safe from harm.

Employers owe this legal 'duty of care' to their employees, contractors, visitors and any one else that might be reasonably impacted by their operation.

Fundamentally, the law requires employers to provide a safe working environment and to ensure the health and safety of employees. Employers must reduce and mitigate risks accordingly.

Although you may not be a full-time employee, the company you work for still owes you the same duty of care. You still have the same health and safety rights as other workers, including the right to work in a safe environment.

If your employer failed in their duty of care to you and you were injured as a result, you may be entitled to claim injury compensation regardless of whether you a full-time or part-time employee, or working on a zero-hours contract.

The rules for claiming compensation are, however, different for self-employed workers and agency workers.

Am I on a zero-hours contract?

You are likely to be on a zero-hours contract (sometimes referred to as a 'casual contract') if you are:

  • not guaranteed work, shifts or a minimum number of hours by your employer
  • you are on call to the employer but you are not contractually required to take the shifts or work on offer.
  • your are entitled accept work from other employers

The main difference between being on a zero-hours contract and being self-employed or a casual worker, is that you will probably have signed an employment contract.

In a legal sense, whether you have a written contract is immaterial. If you work regularly for a single employer, but you don't have fixed working hours or a minimum number of hours per week, you are probably a zero-hours worker.

What should I do if I am injured when working on a zero-hours contract?

The process for zero-hours employees claiming compensation is essentially the same as it is for any employee.

However, a zero-hours worker's wages will typically vary from week to week. This can make it more difficult to calculate compensation for loss of earnings if you are unable to work after your accident.

Your solicitor will work with you to establish the amount of lost income you can claim for.

If you are injured at work you should:

Get medical attention

You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after a work accident. Even if your injuries or symptoms are mild, there are many conditions that can deteriorate if you don't get early treatment.

Getting a medical assessment from a A&E, your GP or other medical professional will also ensure that you have an official record of your injuries if you subsequently decide to claim compensation.

Report the accident

You should report the accident to your manager or supervisor as soon as possible. The accident should then be recorded in the company's accident book.

A formal record in the accident book can be key evidence in support of a work injury claim.

Keep records

In addition to the official medical records and accident book reports, you should gather as much information about your accident and injuries as you can:

  • Take photos of your injuries and of the accident scene
  • Get the names and contact details of witnesses
  • Keep receipts for any expenses you incur (e.g. travel costs, prescriptions and physiotherapy)
  • Keep any payslips, bank statements and other evidence of your earnings

How much can I claim on a zero-hours contract?

The total amount of compensation you will receive will depend on how serious your injuries are, not on your employment status.

Compensation is calculated in two parts;

General damages - paid for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) you have experienced as the result of your injury. Your solicitor will refer to the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases, Fifteenth Edition by the Judicial College.

Special damages - paid for any financial losses you incur as a result of your accident. You can claim for expenses like medical treatment costs, travel costs, damage to personal property and loss of earnings.

How are lost earnings calculated for zero-hours contract workers?

If your injuries prevent you from working, you can claim compensation for lost earnings.

As a zero-hours contract worker you won't have a fixed salary, so your lost earnings will be calculated by assessing your historical earnings.

Your solicitor will ask for evidence of your past earnings (e.g. payslips or bank statements) and use the average to project lost earnings:

For example:

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Average
Hours 20 22 15 17 18.5
Earnings £460 £486 £395 £421 £440.50

Using the example above, if you were unable to work for 10 weeks during your recovery, you could potentially claim:

£4,405.00 (£440.50 x 10 weeks) in lost wages.

Your solicitor will also take into account the impact of seasonal and other variations in your earnings. For example, if you were due to work more hours over Christmas, this would be factored in.

Loss of future earnings

If your injury means you will be off work for a period in the future, a claim can also be made for future loss of earnings.

If the medical prognosis is that you will need a further 6 months to recover, for example, you would be able to claim compensation for this period.

Applying the above earnings history, you could potentially claim:

£11,453.00 (£440.50 x 26 weeks) in lost wages.

No win, no fee injury claims for zero-hours contract workers

Most work accident claims, including those made by zero-hours contract workers, are made on a No Win, No Fee basis.

"No win, no fee" means that you can start a claim with no financial outlay or risk. Your solicitor will be paid a success fee if your claim is successful. Success fees are deducted from the compensation award. If your claim is not successful, you will have no legal fees to pay.

Have you been injured at work?

If you have been injured at work in the last 3 years, you may be able to claim financial compensation.

Find out more about making a work accident claim:

  • Do you qualify?
  • How much compensation could you get?
  • How does No Win, No Fee work?

Read more: Work accident claim guide

Get the right advice

Our work injury advisors will:

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  • Explain how No Win, No Fee works
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