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Workers in the United Kingdom with irregular work patterns will be able to request more work schedule certainty, as the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 recently received Royal Assent. The act follows hot on the heels of similar regulations recently introduced in the European Union.

The new UK legislation aims to redress “one-sided flexibility” between corporations and members of their workforces who do not receive predictable, regular working hours. The act strives to strike a balance between the need for flexible working arrangements from employers and the right of workers to request predictable working.

Quick Hits

  • The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will apply to workers who do not have predictable hours, times, or days of work and those on fixed-term contracts of twelve months or less. It will also apply to agency workers who will be able to apply to either the temporary work agency or the hirer to request a more predictable working pattern, provided they meet certain qualifying conditions.
  • Workers will qualify after a minimum length of service, which is expected to be twenty-six weeks, although this is not expected to have to be continuous due to the typically irregular working patterns of those concerned.
  • Workers can make a maximum of two applications in any twelve-month period.

What Does the Act Provide?

The act seeks to provide workers better control over their working schedules and better financial stability though facilitating requests for more predictable working hours. Workers will be able to request changes in their working schedules from a specified date, to provide more certainty regarding their working patterns, such as days or hours of shifts. A change to the period of engagement with the company can also be requested.

An eligible employee who intends to file a predictable working application must:

  • submit the application in writing;
  • state that it is a statutory predictable working application; and
  • specify the change applied for and the proposed date on which it should take effect.

Responding to Requests

Employers are required to consider all requests in a “reasonable manner” and will be required to notify workers of decisions within one month. An employer can refuse a request for one or more of six grounds set out in the act:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • A detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff
  • A detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the worker or agency worker proposes to work
  • Planned structural changes

If a request is granted, the employer must provide within two weeks a new employment contract that reflects the altered working schedule on conditions that “are not less favourable” than the prior agreement. If a request is denied, the employer is required to provide justification and allow the employee the opportunity to appeal.

Timeframe for Implementation

The government expects the measures in the act and the secondary legislation to become effective approximately one year after the date of Royal Assent (i.e., around September 2024), to give employers time to prepare for the changes.

In addition, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) will produce a new statutory Code of Practice that will provide guidance on how to make and handle requests. ACAS will launch a public consultation on a draft code this autumn.

The act follows previous changes in employment law expanding the rights of workers. It also follows similar EU legislation—the Directive 2019/1152 on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions—whereby employers in EU countries must guarantee certain paid hours and specify in advance the hours and days a worker may be obliged to work when the work pattern is unpredictable.

Employers in the UK and EU may want to review and update their workplace policies and procedures to take account of these changes. In addition, employers may want to ensure that human resources and managerial staff have received training on how to respond to requests for predictable working hours.

Ogletree Deakins’ London office will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the Cross-Border and Wage and Hour blogs as additional information becomes available.

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