The implications of The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill
In early February, the government supported MP Scott Benton’s Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill. While the Bill has not yet been passed into law, it is difficult to believe that major changes will be forthcoming before Royal Assent is given.
What is the Workers Bill and why is it important?
The idea behind the Bill is to ‘level-up’ the playing field between workers who do not have fixed hours and their employers. Think agency workers and those on zero-hours contracts. Basically, any worker who does not have certainty regarding the hours that they work, the times that they work or those on a fixed term contract for less than 12 months. That equates to millions of people in the UK workforce. Any of these workers could potentially be able to request a more predictable working pattern.
The hope is that the Bill will put a stop to a worker waiting for a work call that never comes or being asked to work at short notice. Eligible workers would have the right to ask their employer to consider requests (yes, a worker can ask more than once) for predictable working patterns.
Key points of the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill
- A maximum of two applications can be made by an employee or agency worker during any 12-month period
- An application cannot be made if another statutory application is already proceeding – for example, a request for flexible working
- Employers can reject an application (more on that below)
- The process is expected to work in a similar way to a request for flexible working
- An application could include a request to work on specific days or move to a permanent contract
- The right to make a predictable working request can only be made after a minimum of 26 weeks service. (This is different to a flexible working request which is a right on day one of employment)
Key points for employers
It is worth remembering that the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill only provides the worker with the right to ask for a more predictable working pattern. It is NOT an automatic right. That being said, it is certainly worth bringing management up to speed on a potentially new regime.
Employers will be well within their rights to reject a request on the grounds that the change will burden the business with additional costs. Or it could be that there simply isn’t enough work available at the time the employee wishes to work. This could be particularly relevant to businesses in the hospitality sector.
At present, the penalties for employers who fail to comply is uncertain. Many feel that they will be similar to those imposed for breaching flexible working procedures. That could be limited punitive damages and/or claims for compensation by individuals who suffer after making a request.
If you work in a business that has agency and/or zero-hours contract workers, you need to prepare for the changes that the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill will bring.
If you require help to establish new policies and procedures, please get in touch.