In 2017, the Taylor Review of Modern Workplaces identified the issue of one-sided flexibility within the UK labour market – in particular, workers being required to be available at short notice with no guarantee of work being available. A new law, which has recently received Royal Assent (named the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023), seeks to address this issue by introducing the right to request a predictable working pattern.
The new right introduced by the Act is not expected to come into force until September 2024 which therefore allows some time for employers to prepare. However, employers who regularly engage workers on atypical contracts or who operate in sectors where work is temporary or casual, may want to take action before then to prepare including:
- A workforce audit to identify who might be eligible for the new right;
- Implementing processes to deal with requests and ensure these can be handled from an administrative perspective;
- Introducing a workplace policy to set out the process to make a request;
- Training managers to identify a request and how to deal with it;
- Review in due course the Acas Code of Practice (currently under consultation) which will accompany this new right to provide guidance on handling requests.
We summarise below the Act, although some of the detail is expected to follow in separate regulations which are yet to be drafted.
What does the Act introduce?
The Act gives employees and workers on atypical contracts, such as agency workers, temporary workers, and those on zero hours contracts, the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work.
When can a request be made?
- Workers can make a request where:
- There is a lack of predictability in any part of their work pattern (eg being on a zero hours contract and not having a guaranteed number of hours);
- The change requested relates to their working pattern (i.e their hours, days or fixed-term contract period); and
- The purpose in applying for the change is to get a more predictable work pattern.
- Fixed term contracts of 12 months or less are presumed to lack predictability.
- A worker may make two requests in any 12-month period.
- There will be a minimum length of service requirement to qualify for the right to make a request. It is expected that this will be 26 weeks’continuous service but this will be confirmed in regulations in due course.
There are clear similarities with the current flexible working regime. In particular, that this is a right to request (not a right to have) the change in work pattern.
Will there be a process to follow?
Yes, which will operate in a similar way to the flexible working regime in that:
- The employer must deal with the request in a reasonable manner;
- A decision must be made by the employer within one month of receiving it; and
- The employer can refuse the request on specified business-related reasons, which include (amongst others) the burden of additional costs, planned structural changes and a detrimental impact on the employer’s business.
The worker will be able to bring a claim if there are any procedural failings by the employer and/or they suffer a detriment or are dismissed because of their request.
If you would like to discuss how this new right might impact your business, please contact Kathryn Dooks or another member of the Employment team.
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