A new law designed to give workers on flexible or casual contracts more predictable working patterns has received Royal Assent.
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023, which is expected to come into force in Summer 2024, will afford workers such as temporary workers and those on zero hour contracts a new statutory right to make requests for more predictable or regular working patterns. Requested changes could relate to hours of work, days of work or the period of engagement.
The Government says its intention with the new law is to “redress the imbalance of power between some employers and workers in atypical work, encouraging workers to begin conversations with their employers about their working patterns”.
The changes come in direct response to Matthew Taylor’s 2017 review of modern working practices and the gig economy, which recommended the introduction of such a policy that would support workers who currently experience “one-sided flexibility”.
Workers will be able to make requests under the new law if they operate with irregular working hours and times or are on fixed-term contracts of 12 months or less. Agency workers will also be allowed to make requests, either to their agency or, in some circumstances, directly to the organisation they are working for.
The right will function in a similar way to the right to request flexible working, whereby a maximum of two formal applications can be made within any 12-month period.
Workers will qualify for the new statutory right after a minimum service period, which is expected to be 26 weeks, although these are not expected to have to be continuous weeks given the typically irregular working patterns of those concerned.
The request must state clearly the changes being proposed and the date from which they are proposed to apply.
Employers must consider all requests made under the new law in a “reasonable manner” and the decision must be made and notified to the worker within one month of the request being submitted.
If the employer accepts the request, the new arrangements must be offered within two weeks of the decision to grant the new terms.
When making the contractual changes in favour of predictable working, employers are prohibited from making any additional changes to contract terms at the same time that would place the worker at a disadvantage or detriment.
Employers retain the right to refuse a request for predictable working, but this must be on the basis of one of six statutory grounds as specified in the Act: additional cost, ability to meet customer demand, impact on recruitment, impact on other areas of the business, insufficiency of work during the proposed periods and planned structural changes.
Ahead of the Act taking effect, ACAS will be producing a draft Code of Practice for consultation later this year, specifically to provide guidance to employers on how to manage predictable working requests.