Business secretary Vince Cable has announced plans to ban exclusivity clauses for employees on zero-hours contracts.

This means individuals will now have the freedom to find work with more than one employer and not be tied to just one, even when no work is available.

The ban is part of the government’s bid to clamp down on abuses in the workplace by less scrupulous employers and is set to benefit the 125,000 zero-hours contract workers estimated to be tied to an exclusivity clause.

As well as giving workers more choice and flexibility, removing exclusivity clauses will allow them to look for additional work to boost their income.

In a statement, Cable said: “Zero-hours contracts have a place in today’s labour market. They offer valuable flexible working opportunities for students, older people and other people looking to top up their income and find work that suits their personal circumstances.

“But it has become clear that some unscrupulous employers abuse the flexibility that these contracts offer to the detriment of their workers. Today, we are legislating to clamp down on abuses to ensure people get a fair deal.”

The lifting of the exclusivity clauses follows a government consultation into zero-hours contracts, which received more than 36,000 responses; 83% were in favour of banning such clauses in zero-hours contacts, including professionals from the recruitment industry.

Cable also announced that the government will:

• consult further on how to prevent rogue employers evading the exclusivity ban, for example through offering one-hour fixed contracts

• work with business representatives and unions to develop a code of practice on the fair use of zero-hours contracts by the end of the year

• work with stakeholders to review existing guidance and improve information available to employees and employers on using these contracts.

The ban will be part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which is being introduced to Parliament today (Wednesday 25 June)