The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act of 2023 was granted Royal Assent on the 18th of September 2023. This new legislation, set to take effect next year, establishes a legal entitlement for workers, including agency personnel, who maintain irregular working hours to request a more predictable work schedule from their employers.
These developments are anticipated to have notable implications for sectors like hospitality, leisure, and the gig economy, where employees often labour under zero-hour contracts or on a temporary basis.
Under this legislation, workers and agency staff can seek a predictable working pattern under certain circumstances:
- When the worker experiences an inconsistent work schedule (automatically presumed for fixed-term contracts lasting 12 months or less).
- When the request pertains to their work pattern.
- When they are seeking a more predictable work schedule through their request.
Workers can make a maximum of two requests within a 12-month timeframe, and employers can reject these requests based on specific statutory grounds. To be eligible, workers must have completed at least 26 weeks of service, although this does not necessitate continuous employment. Agency workers can apply to either the temporary work agency or the end client to request a more predictable work schedule.
Once a request is submitted, it must specify the proposed change and the date on which it should commence. Employers are obligated to handle the request reasonably, including meetings with the worker and subsequent discussions. Within one month of the request, the employer must either approve or deny it, with the worker being promptly notified of the decision.
Similar to the existing right to request flexible work arrangements, employers can decline a request for predictable hours based on six specified grounds, which include:
- The need to meet customer demand.
- Additional costs incurred.
- Impacts on recruitment.
- Effects on other business areas.
- Planned structural changes.
- Insufficient work during the proposed periods.
If an employer rejects a request, they must provide reasons for the decision and allow the worker to appeal.
If a request is accommodated, new terms and conditions (equivalent to or better than the previous terms) must be provided within two weeks.
Failure to properly consider or rejecting a request on invalid grounds may result in a claim brought before employment tribunals. In such cases, if the claim succeeds, the tribunal may order compensation or reconsideration of the application.
Further regulations outlining the procedure employers must follow when assessing requests for predictable work schedules will be published in the near future. The government expects these regulations to take effect approximately one year after the Act’s passage. To provide guidance to workers and businesses on the new obligations and request handling, Acas is set to develop a new Code of Practice.
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