The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will give certain workers, agency workers and employees new statutory rights to request a more predictable working pattern. Royal Assent was given on 19 September 2023, but it is not expected to come into force for another year.
The Act is aimed at typical workers and those who are on zero hours contracts but there is the possibility that those on other types of contracts will be caught by some of the provisions too. Such contracts may include those with uncertain working patterns, fixed-term contracts of 12 months or less where there is a clause allowing for extension of the contract or removal of terms, and agency workers.
TO be eligible, employees must meet the following criteria:
- Minimum length of service of 26 weeks (but these do not need to be continuous)
- Lack predictability in their working pattern whether this be hours, days or do not have a guaranteed number of hours of work (fixed term contracts with a term of less than 12 months are included in this)
Workers will be allowed to make 2 applications to their employer in any 12 month period but, the application must specify the following
- The nature of the request, is this to do with the number of hours of work, the days of work, times of work or length of the contract? and
- The purpose of the request, which is to have a more predictable working pattern.
Employers must deal with the request in a reasonable manner and notify the worker of the decision within one month of the request being made.
If the request is granted, the employer must offer new terms within two weeks of granting the request and they cannot make detrimental changes to any other contractual terms at the same time as making the changes required as a result of the approved request for predictability.
However, requests can be refused on any number of specified grounds, with the act listing 6 grounds on which this can be done. The grounds are broadly the same as those for rejecting a request for flexible working. Employers who have a flexible working policy in place, will likely be able to transfer the reasons across the two policies.
Whilst we are a year away from when it is expected this act will come into force, the time will go by quickly. Employers need to start thinking about necessary steps to ensure they have policies and procedures in place to deal with such requests, and even consider whether there are any changes they could make to contracts with unpredictable working patterns.
ACAS is to publish a draft code of practice to provide guidance to employers and employees on making and handling requests and understanding the law. The draft code of practice is going to be open for public consultation this autumn.