The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 18 September 2023. This Act allows for workers and agency workers to request a predictable working pattern.
The aim of the Act is to address the issue of “one-sided flexibility”. This is the idea that a casual worker is expected to be completely flexible and available for work at very short notice but not actually be guaranteed any consistent work. This unpredictability can lead to income insecurity. But there are some who say that this new right is at odds with the government’s stated commitment to encouraging flexibility in the workplace.
The framework for making and dealing with these requests is similar to the existing flexible working statutory framework. Workers will be able to make a request if their current work pattern “lacks predictability” though the Act does not define what is meant by predictability. The regulations are likely to state that in order to be eligible to make this request a worker must have at least 26 weeks’ service. No more than two requests can be made in a 12-month period.
Employers will be able to reject a request based on one of six statutory grounds: 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.
One key aspect is that the request must be dealt with in one month. Currently flexible working requests must be dealt with in three months but this will be changing to two months next year.
This right will not apply to workers who are on fixed term contracts of less than 12 months. In these circumstances it is presumed that there will be a lack of predictability. It is available to workers to request that the contract be extended so that a predictable work pattern request can be made.
It is likely that the biggest impact will be felt by employers who rely on zero hour workers.
The Act and secondary legislation are expected to come into force approximately one year after Royal Assent so that employers have time to prepare. It would be worth thinking about working practices and how this right could impact your organisation sooner rather than later in order to minimise its effects. Businesses that rely on seasonal and casual workers would be advised to look at working patterns and see if contracts could be changed in advance of the legislation coming into effect.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.