• 2 min read

Employment Alert – New Rights for Atypical Workers

woman’s hands signing an employment contract, close-up

What’s happening?

Parliament has given Royal Assent to The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023.

Under the Act, atypical workers (such as agency workers and those on zero-hour contracts) will be able to request a more predictable working pattern once they have worked for the employer for a set period (expected to be 26 weeks). Moreover, workers on fixed term contracts of 12 months or less will be presumed to have an ‘unpredictable working pattern’ and will be able to use the Act to request contract extensions or a move to full employment.

Employers will have 1 month in which to respond to the request and will only be able to refuse on a specified ground. The specified grounds (noted below) are similar to the current grounds for flexible working with a few differences.

  • Burden of additional costs;
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • Detrimental impact on recruitment;
  • Detrimental impact on other aspects of the business;
  • Insufficiency of work to provide the worker; and
  • Planned structural changes.

If the employer unreasonably refuses, workers will be able to complain to the employment tribunal.

Why is this important?

The Government’s impact assessment for the bill estimates a net cost to businesses of £16.9m per year as a result of these changes. The effect will be felt acutely by businesses who use a high proportion of atypical workers.

Whilst there are several grounds for refusing a worker’s request, it is not yet known how strictly these will be construed. As such, careful thought will need to be given as to the business rationale for refusing a request. If employers are found to be breaching these obligations they may be ordered to reconsider the application and pay compensation (of an amount yet to be confirmed) to the worker.

What should you do?

The Act is expected to come into force in September 2024 and ACAS is in the process of producing a Code of Practice on the issue. 

In anticipation of the changes, you should review your current workforce and future recruitment plans to identify atypical workers who could make requests under the Act.

If you have a high proportion of atypical workers, it would be sensible to implement a policy detailing how workers can make a request and appeal any refusal. Please be aware that the legislation differs between agency workers and zero-hour contract workers. If you are unsure on your obligations you should seek legal advice.

If you would like to talk to our expert Employment team, please please call us on 0800 2800 421 or contact us using the form below.

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