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On 18th September 2023, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill received Royal Assent, officially becoming the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023. This legislation introduces significant shifts in how workers' rights are defined, particularly concerning work pattern predictability.
Key Features of the Predictable Terms Act:
- Right to Request Predictable Work Patterns: The Act grants workers and agency workers the right to request a predictable work pattern.
- Conditions for Request: Workers can request a predictable work pattern where any part of their work pattern lacks predictability, the change relates to their work pattern and the purpose of applying for the change is to secure a more predictable work pattern.
- Minimum length of service: It is expected that the right will apply to workers with a minimum of 26 weeks’ service.
- Number of requests: Workers can make two requests within a 12-month period.
- Potential for Rejection: Employers can reject requests based on statutory grounds, which will be specified in regulations. The reasons are expected to be similar to the reasons for rejecting a flexible working request, for example, burden of additional costs and detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.
- Claims: The Act enables workers to make claims based on procedural failings by the employer, unlawful detriment, and automatic unfair dismissal.
The new Act is expected to come into force around September 2024. Prepare early by familiarising yourself with the Acas Code and Guidance, taking part in its consultation, and looking out for the finalised version. You should diarise to look at developing a process and/or policy in spring/summer 2024 so you’re ready for when the changes take effect.
Similarities to the new Flexible Working Act
The Act introduces a pivotal statutory right, allowing workers (including agency staff) to request a more predictable work routine. The request procedure mirrors the current structure for flexible working requests: written submissions that can be declined based on specified grounds, like additional costs or potential adverse impacts on recruitment or business operations due to the requested changes.
In the meantime, Acas has now launched its consultation into a draft Code of Practice for managing requests for predictable working patterns. This code will run parallel to the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023.
Under the Act, different protocols apply based on whether the request is coming from an employee/worker to their employer or from an agency worker to their agency or hirer. ACAS is particularly interested in insights on how these distinct processes should be incorporated into the Code of Practice.
Outlined in the draft Code are essential good practices, such as permitting workers to have a companion during discussions, the necessity for organisations to provide additional reasonable information regarding their decisions, and the option for an appeal if a request faces rejection.
While the Code won't be legally binding, it will weigh significantly in the eyes of courts and employment tribunals when handling relevant cases. The consultation period concludes on 17 January 2024. Have your say here.