Bar worker's landmark victory could change the law on cancelled shifts

New development in fight against Zero Hour Contracts

Alasdair Thomson, a bar worker from Inverness, has won a legal dispute over last-minute shift-cancellations that could lead to significant changes in employers’ practices in the hospitality industry.

Alasdair had his shifts cancelled at the last minute on a number of occasions which left him unable to find other work to replace his lost wages.

After contacting Better than Zero, a campaign against precarious work that is supported by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Alasdair decided to pursue his case legally against SLONLO2 ltd, the company that held the lease at Phoenix Alehouse. 

Commenting on his case Alistair said ‘I found out about Better than Zero on the Glasgow Bartenders’ Facebook page. They frequently have people on there talking about bad experiences. It’s not everywhere that treats you badly, but certainly it’s not the first bad experience I’ve had. When bosses cancel these shifts at the last minute is has such a huge effect on your life. Not only is it impossible to find replacement work at such short notice, it mean it's impossible to make basic plans about what you do with your life. You just feel that your daily life is held at the whim of your line manager.'

‘You don’t need to accept being treated that way. You need to stand up for yourself. Get in touch with Better than Zero to get what you’re entitled to and get involved.’

Claire Galloway, an organiser for Better than Zero, said:

‘We hear more and more cases of bosses chopping and changing schedules as they please. Sometimes it is just because of shoddy scheduling, and other times it is used as a retaliation for behaviour that managers don’t approve of. In either case, it is wrong and now we know that it is legally untenable.

‘It can be difficult for staff affected by mistreatment to take collective action in an environment of zero-hours contracts and irregular work. But Better than Zero is launching regional ‘hubs’ for workers in hospitality, restaurants, retail and other sectors to come together and take up issues like shifts and scheduling, to improve practices locally.’

Alasdair was represented by Thompson’s Solicitors, Scotland’s leading law firm supporting Trade Unions and employment rights. 

Lois Madden is his lawyer. She commented ‘Alasdair won his case before the court could had down a judgment on the issue, because the employer decided to settle the case.’

‘Many employers think that engaging staff on a zero hours basis will allow them free reign to cancel shifts at will. Alasdair’s case has challenged the legal basis for this and argued that when a rota is scheduled and an employee notified, then bosses can’t just cancel those shifts without any notice.  If they do then they can be liable to pay the worker for the shift.’

Lois continued by explaining how this legal development will lead to a huge challenge against some of the worst excesses of the Zero Hours Contacts culture. ‘My law firm and Better Than Zero consider that this is a landmark case and it puts employers on notice that their practice needs to change. We say that workers have a legal right to a reasonable period of notice to allow them to find alternative work.  In our view this should be in line with the pay-period of the employer, for example if an employee is paid weekly they should be given one week’s notice of a cancellation.’

Better Than Zero, the trade union movement and their legal advisors are determined to quickly build on this precedent by establishing legal judgments on a minimum time period for an employer to cancel shifts. 


For more details, contact Cailean Gallagher on 07384 216733 or at