Friday 3rd February 2023, the government supported Blackpool South MP Scott Benton’s Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill, which will bring forward changes for tens of millions of workers across the UK.
The move, which would apply to all workers and employees including agency workers, comes after a review found many workers on zero hours contracts experience ‘one-sided flexibility’.
This means people across the country are currently left waiting, unable to get on with their lives in case of being called up at the last minute for a shift. With a more predictable working pattern, workers will have a guarantee of when they are required to work, with hours that work for them.
If a worker’s existing working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours they work, the times they work or if it is a fixed term contract for less than 12 months, they will be able to make a formal application to change their working pattern to make it more predictable.
Hard working staff on zero hours contracts across the country put their lives on hold to make themselves readily available for shifts that may never actually come.
Employers having one-sided flexibility over their staff is unfair and unreasonable. This Bill will ensure workers can request more predictable working patterns where they want them, so they can get on with their daily lives.
A significant number of my constituents experience unpredictable work. Being able to ask their employers to consider requests for a more predictable working pattern such as working on set days, or for a permanent contract, will help them to work more predictable hours and provide more reliably for their families in some cases, and help with their work-life balance in other situations.
This Bill gives people a right to ask their employers to consider requests and will be welcomed by thousands of people.
The move comes as part of a package of policies supporting workers’ rights across the country, such as:
- supporting parents of babies who need neonatal additional care with paid neonatal care leave
- requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges received must be paid to workers in full
- offering pregnant women and new parents greater protection against redundancy
- entitling unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave to support those most in need
- providing millions of employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work
These policies will increase workforce participation, protect vulnerable workers, and level the playing field, ensuring unscrupulous businesses don’t have a competitive advantage.
This package builds on the strengths of the UK flexible and dynamic labour market and gives businesses the confidence to create jobs and invest in their workforce, allowing them to generate long-term prosperity and economic growth.
How does it work?
Subject to parliamentary approval, all workers and employees will have this new right once it comes into force, however, they must first have worked for their employer a set period before they make their application. This period will be set out in regulations and is expected to be 26 weeks. Given the proposals aim to support those with unpredictable contracts, workers will not have had to have worked continuously during that period.
Employers do have the option to refuse a request for a more predictable working pattern on specific grounds, such as the burden of additional costs to make changes, or there being insufficient work at times when the employee proposes to work. Workers will be able to make up to 2 requests a year.
Matthew Taylor’s 2017 review of modern working practices and the gig economy recommended the introduction of this policy, noting that it would support many workers who currently experience ‘one-sided flexibility’.