The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill is working its way through the Houses of Parliament and proposes to introduce a right for workers and agency workers to be able to request predictable terms and conditions of work. We explore what this Bill means and how it could affect employers.
When can a worker make a predictable working request?
Under the new Bill, a worker will be able to request a more predictable working pattern from their employer if their working pattern lacks predictability. This will mostly relate to those workers on zero hours contracts, casual workers, and individuals on annualised contracts. To make such a request, the worker will need to have completed a minimum service of 26 weeks’ continuous service for the employer. The worker’s application will be limited to 2 in any 12-month period, and will be under the existing flexible working procedure, and/or the new statutory procedure for requesting a more predictable working pattern.
What will change for agency workers?
Under the Bill, an agency worker will be able to request a more predictable work pattern from their agency, subject to the worker having a worker’s or employment contract with that agency. An agency worker will also be able to request the hiring company to engage them directly. Such a request may be made if the worker has been in the same role with the same hirer for a period of at least 12 continuous weeks. Agency workers and fixed-term workers will also be entitled to ask for a change in the duration of their contract.
Under the Bill, the employer must deal with any such request in a “reasonable manner,” they must notify the worker within one month of their decision, and an application may only be rejected for a reason under a list of specified grounds, which replicate those for refusing a flexible working request. These grounds include reasons such as the change requested would affect sufficiency of work, or affect the company’s ability to meet demands.
Failing to deal with the application in accordance with the above could make the employer liable. An employer should always consider the risk of discrimination claims when accommodating a predictable working request. A tribunal has the discretion to order the employer to reconsider the application by the worker, or order an award of compensation for the individual if they have been treated unfairly.
The Bill also makes a provision gives employees protection from automatic unfair dismissal, if the employer dismisses them as a result of a request for a predictable working pattern. The Bill also gives both employees and workers protection from being subject to a detriment in the circumstances.