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

Updated: March 20, 2020

Employers owe a duty of care to safeguard the health and safety of every employee, regardless of the terms of their contract.

If you have been injured in an accident at work, 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.

Am I on a zero-hours contract?

You are likely to be on a zero-hours contract if you are not guaranteed work, shifts or a minimum number of hours by your employer.

Under a zero-hours contract, employees are not contractually required to take the shifts or work on offer. 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 or not doesn't matter. 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.

Can zero-hours workers claim injury compensation?

Yes. 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 you are injured at work while working on a zero-hours contract and the injury was caused by your employer's actions or negligence, you should be entitled to claim compensation.

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

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

The guidance for claiming compensation for zero-hours employees is the same as for other employees, with one notable exception. A zero-hours worker's wages will probably vary from week to week. This can make it more difficult to assess your lost earnings if you are unable to work for a period after their accident. Your solicitor will work with you to establish the level of income that you will have lost due to the accident.

If you are injured at work you should:

Get medical attention

Ideally, you should see your GP or go to A&E as soon as possible after a work accident. Even if your injuries or symptoms seem mild, there are many conditions that can deteriorate if you don't get proper treatment.

Getting assessed by a medical professional will also ensure that you have an official record of your injuries should you 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.

Reporting your accident means there will be an official record in the company accident book. This record can be critical evidence in support of an 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. You could:

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

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

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

Compensation is calculated in two parts; general damages, and special damages.

General damages are paid for the "pain, suffering and loss of amenity" you have experienced as the result of your injury. Your solicitor will work this out using the official table of guideline compensation awards for different types of injuries.

Special damages are based on your financial losses caused by the 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 would be entitled to claim compensation for lost earnings, or the money you would have earned in that time.

Workers on a zero-hours contract do not have a fixed wage, and so your lost earnings will be worked out 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 £260 £286 £195 £221 £240.50

Using the example above, if you were unable to work for six weeks during your recovery, you could claim £1443 (£240,50 x 6 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.

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?
Work accident claim guide