New legislation in the UK is set to provide millions of workers with the opportunity to improve the reliability and consistency of their work schedules. The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023, which was granted Royal Assent on 18 September, aims to empower individuals engaged in non-standard employment arrangements to discuss their work schedules with their employers without any negative consequences.
This government-backed law is part of a larger effort to enhance workers’ rights, following recent protections for parents and unpaid carers. The Act also grants workers the right to request flexible working arrangements from the start of their employment.
According to a minister, this new legislation will offer workers added predictability and security in terms of their hours and income, particularly during a time when many are facing the challenges of a rising cost of living.
Understanding the Background: The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 has been developed in response to the criticisms surrounding the UK’s gig economy. The act is a result of the government’s Good Work Plan, which proposed several changes to employment regulations.
One significant change proposed by the Good Work Plan was the introduction of a right for workers to request a more stable and predictable contract after 26 weeks of service. This was in recognition of the challenges faced by gig workers, who often experience inconsistent work patterns and income.
The aim of the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 is to provide job security and income predictability for workers in non-standard employment arrangements. By leveling the playing field between non-traditional and traditional work arrangements, the legislation aims to address the uncertainties faced by workers in today’s evolving job market.
All too often, gig workers find themselves with little protection in the world of employment law, and this new Bill helps to provide them with a greater level of protection. As such, when the new Bill comes into force, it may give them grounds to use settlement agreement solicitors to file claims against their employers.
What type of employers will be impacted?
The right to request a more predictable working schedule will be applicable to the following workers:
- Workers on fixed-term contracts of 12 months or less, such as seasonal workers and supply teachers. They will have the option to request longer fixed-term contracts or the removal of any fixed-term provisions.
- Agency workers who meet certain qualifying conditions. They can make their request to either the agency or the hirer.
- Workers with uncertain working patterns, such as those in the hospitality industry with irregular shifts or on-call healthcare workers.
If the original proposal from the Good Work Plan is adopted, the likely qualifying period for these rights will be 26 weeks of service. These weeks won’t necessarily need to be continuous, considering the nature of gig work.
How Will Employers Be Affected?
The new procedure outlined in the Bill closely resembles the process for handling flexible working requests that employers are already familiar with. In fact, the grounds for rejecting requests for a more predictable work schedule are almost identical to those for refusing flexible working requests.
One issue with the current flexible working system is that there is little consequence for employers who fail to address a request. However, flexible working rights are backed by anti-discrimination laws, as most requests come from female employees. Employers who dismiss these requests could potentially face a discrimination claim.
On the other hand, the maximum penalty for failing to address a request for a predictable work pattern is only eight weeks’ pay. For most employers, this is not a significant deterrent. Additionally, it is uncertain at this stage if the majority of employees with unpredictable hours are female. If not, employers may not face the threat of a discrimination claim.
Considering these factors, the risk of rejecting requests for predictable working hours in accordance with the new procedure may be significantly lower. However, employers should still be mindful of the potential impact on their reputation. It is crucial to follow best practices and review requests thoroughly, fairly, and based on solid data when making decisions.
Preparing for the Implementation of the Act: Key Dates and Steps for Employers
The precise date for implementing the new measures is still to be determined. However, it is anticipated that the Act will officially come into effect in September 2024, providing employers with a timeline for preparation.