Workers to get new right to request predictable schedules
On 3 February 2023, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill passed it’s second reading in parliament and received backing from the government. This Bill aims to give workers and agency workers the statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern. For the purposes of the Bill, a working pattern can include the number of working hours; working days; working times; and the period the worker is contracted for.
Workers who have been engaged for at least 26 weeks (it’s expected they won’t have to have worked continuously during this time due to the nature of the contract) will be able to submit an application to change their current terms and conditions if there’s a lack of predictability in the work they do, or in their working hours. The purpose of this application must be to get a more predictable work pattern.
A fixed-term worker is regarded as having a lack of predictability if their contract is for 12 months or less. As such, these workers will also be able to submit an application for a more predictable working pattern, if the change would mean their fixed-term contract is extended, or their contract is made permanent.
Applications must specifically state that it’s a request for more predictable terms and outline the change the worker wants, and when they propose it will take effect from. Workers will be able to submit a maximum of two applications per year. Employers must deal with applications in a reasonable manner and respond with their decision within one month from the date the application was made.
Applications can only be rejected for reasons which largely follow (but are not the exact same as) what is already in place for flexible working requests. Specifically, these are outlined in the Bill as: the burden of additional costs; detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand; detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff; detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business; insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work; and planned structural changes.
Despite receiving government backing, the Bill must still complete the remaining stages in the House of Commons, then be debated in the House of Lords, before it can come into effect. As such, there may be further changes to the implementation of the Bill before it receives final approval.
This being said, employers who engage workers on a zero-hours, variable hours, fixed-term, casual or agency basis should prepare for the changes. Managers may need to be trained on how to process requests for predictable work patterns, as well as receive any necessary resources and have their workloads amended to be able to cope with this additional task.
Similarly, policies and procedures will need to be created and communicated with the wider workforce, so staff members are aware of their new right and how they are able to access it. As such, employers should use this time to assess who it will impact and consider how to best roll it out within their organisation.