- Millions of workers will have a say over their working patterns as Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill achieves Royal Assent.
- Government-backed law gives all workers the legal right to request a predictable working pattern encouraging workers to begin conversations with their employers.
- Follows a wave of wins for workers after a record National Minimum Wage uplift and boosts to employment protections for parents and unpaid carers.
Workers right across the country will be given more say over their working patterns thanks to new laws supported by the Department for Business and Trade.
Receiving Royal Assent, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill, brought forward by Blackpool South MP Scott Benton and Baroness Anderson and supported by the Government, gives individuals on atypical contracts – including those on zero hours contracts – more predictable working hours. It delivers on a 2019 Manifesto commitment to introduce a right for workers to request a more predictable contract.
Zero hours contracts – and other forms of atypical work – are an important part of the UK’s flexible labour market; however, the Government is determined to tackle unfair working practices.
The Predictable Working Act introduces a right for workers to request a more predictable working pattern, intending to redress the imbalance of power between some employers and workers in atypical work, encouraging workers to begin conversations with their employers about their working patterns.
Business and Trade Minister Kevin Hollinrake:
Although zero hours contracts can often suit workers who want to work flexibly and employers whose needs vary, it is unfair for anyone to have to put their lives on hold to make themselves available for shifts that may never actually come – this Act helps to end the guessing game.
A happier workforce means increased productivity, helping in turn to grow the economy, which is why we’ve backed these measures to give people across the UK more say over their working pattern.
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. Once a worker has made their request, their employer will be required to notify them of their decision within one month.
As well as clear benefits to workers, the measures are also good for British business. In cases where requests are accepted, workers will have more predictable terms and conditions that better suit their individual circumstances, leading to higher job satisfaction.
This can lead to a range of benefits for businesses, including better staff retention as a worker will not need to look for a new role to secure a working pattern to meet their needs.
Acas Chief Executive Susan Clews:
With the passing of the new Act, many workers will have the right to request more predictability around their working pattern should they wish to.
Acas is producing a new Code of Practice that will provide clear guidance on making and handling requests. This will help workers and businesses understand the law and have constructive discussions around working arrangements that suit them both. Our draft Code will be available for public consultation in the coming weeks and we encourage all interested parties to respond and let us know their views.
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 comes as part of a package of Private Member Bills this government has backed over the last few months, cementing the UK’s prevalent worker’s rights laws. These include:
- supporting employee parents of new-born babies who are admitted into neonatal care with up to 12 weeks of paid neonatal care leave
- requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges received are paid to workers in full
- offering pregnant women and new parents greater protection against redundancy
- entitling employees who are also unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave
- providing millions of employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work
This package of new laws builds on the UK’s flexible and dynamic labour market and gives businesses the confidence to create jobs and invest in their workforce, allowing them to generate long-term economic growth.
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at CIPD:
This new right will ensure that atypical workers can request a more predictable working pattern if they need more certainty, for example, over the hours they work each week.
It should also prompt more employers to ensure that the flexibility in non-standard employment arrangements works for both the business and workers wherever possible, boosting their efforts to recruit and retain staff.
So what is the background?
The Government says it is committed to ensuring the UK is the best place in the world to work and grow a business. To do this, we need a strong and flexible labour market, which supports participation and economic growth. The Government has made this clear since announcing its intention to legislate on this and confirming its support of the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill.
They expect the measures in the Act and secondary legislation to come into force approximately a year after Royal Assent, to give employers time to prepare for the changes.
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’.
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.
In response to this legislation, the Government has asked Acas to prepare a new statutory Code of Practice to help workers and businesses understand the law and to provide guidance on how requests should be made and considered. Acas will launch a public consultation on a draft Code this autumn.