The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 has recently received Royal Assent and is expected to come into force next year, most likely later in 2024. Despite the somewhat late date the Act will come into force, which was by design to give employers a year to react, this article will outline the changes employers can expect when it does come into force.
What does the act do?
The fundamental addition to the law which the Act conceives is a new right for workers to request more predictable work patterns. The request has to be related to work patterns. This can be in the form of a more predictable number of hours, more predictable days of work in the week and the times of work on those days, or even a more predictable period of engagement by the employer (s.80IA (2)). Another notable requirement before a worker can request is for them to have worked for at least 26 weeks with the employer and importantly that does not have to be ‘continuous service’.
The Act does not mean that automatically employers must change a worker’s work pattern to be more predictable when the Act comes into force, it is only upon a request by the employee or worker*.
Who can request more predictable hours?*
Anyone whose hours are varied leaving them ‘lacking predictability’ can request their employer to make them more predictable. The Government has made it clear that the Act is aimed at those on ‘zero hours’ contracts and alike, but there is certainly scope for other contract types to be affected. A fairly typical employment contract with set hours, but which has a clause whereby the employer can vary the hours at will would be affected for example.
The Act also provisions for agency workers too, who will be able to request more predictable hours to their agency or the employer who hires them from the agency.
What will employers be required to do
Employers can allow workers up to two requests in any 12-month period for the purpose of improving predictability, and a new application cannot be made whilst an existing application is being considered by the employer.
The employer has a legal duty to handle the request in ‘a reasonable manner’ and to do so within 1 calendar month (s.80IC). It is not specified in the Act exactly what a ‘reasonable manner’ entails. But the Government has enlisted ACAS to provide a Code of Practice offering guidance on the Act’s practical implications for when it comes into force, which should hopefully address this requirement amongst other requirements.
If an employer accepts the worker’s request, they have two weeks to offer the new contractual terms.
Can employers reject a worker’s request?
Yes. Employers are entitled to reject a request on 6 possible grounds:
- the request would burden the employer with additional costs;
- it would detrimentally affect the employer’s ability to meet customer demand;
- it would have a detrimental effect on the recruitment of staff;
- it would have a detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business;
- there is a lack of work during the worker’s requested times;
- there are planned structural changes within the employer’s business.
New regulations will be attached to the Act which will add more detail alongside the future ACAS guidance, which will help inform employers of how to plan their requests procedure for when the Act comes into force.
Don’t forget, this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one particular situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, RMI template documents, including a disciplinary process, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance.
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