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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

What is the Predictable Working Bill and how will it affect you?

Updated: May 25, 2023

Flexible working

With millions of workers in the UK currently working irregular hours, there has been a lot of focus to remove or restrict zero-hour and variable-hour contracts. As part of a package of change, the government are backing the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill. These legal changes are being introduced to help increase protection for vulnerable workers and ensuring unscrupulous businesses don’t have a competitive advantage.

What are zero and variable-hour contracts?

Zero-hour and variable-hour contracts are used by employers to maintain a flexible working workforce. Contracts invariably detail terms and conditions of employment, including an hourly rate, but either do not guarantee a fixed number of working hours each week or guarantee only a small number of working hours each week.

Many zero-hour and variable-hour contracts used to restrict workers from taking up work elsewhere, to ensure that they were available to work on demand. However, the Exclusivity Terms for Zero Hours Workers (Unenforceability and Redress) Regulations 2022 came into force on 5 December 2022 making exclusivity clauses unenforceable where the average net guaranteed weekly income of the worker is equivalent to or below the Lower Earnings Limit, which is currently £123 per week.

What is the predictable working bill?

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill has now received backing from the government. Its aim is to level out the one-sidedness of zero-hour and variable-hour contracts, where workers have no rights to a fair number of hours work each week and are only informed of the hours and days they are working with one to two weeks' notice.

"Hard working staff on zero-hour contracts across the country put their lives on hold to make themselves readily available for shifts that may never actually come." – Kevin Hollinrake, Labour Market Minister

How will the predictable working bill support workers?

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill will apply to all workers, employees and agency workers, where their:

  • hours of work are uncertain;

  • the days and times they work are uncertain; or

  • if their contract of employment is for a fixed-term of less than twelve months.

Where the Bill applies, workers will be eligible to make a formal application to change their working arrangements and ask for more regular:

  • number of working hours;

  • days worked each week;

  • times during the days worked; and

  • periods of temporary work.

How will the predictable working bill work in practice?

All workers, employees and agency workers on zero-hour, variable-hour or short-term contracts of twelve months or less, will be able to make up to two applications each year to request a more predictable working pattern. Each application must state that it is a request for more predictable terms and detail the change in terms the worker is looking for and the date they would like the change to take effect.

Employers will then have a duty to review the application in a reasonable manner and respond within one month from the date of the application. When reviewing the application, employers will only be able to reject the request for the following reasons:

  • 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;

  • planned structural changes; or

  • the worker or employer terminates the contract during the decision period (for unrelated, fair reasons).

Workers will also be entitled to make a tribunal claim if the employer doesn't deal with their requests properly.

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SWan HR is an HR consultancy that specialises in HR support for small to medium sized businesses in the South East.

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SWan HR was founded by Susan Wakelin, MCIPD, who is a qualified HR professional with over thirty years' experience, from setting up, auditing and improving HR functions to management coaching and supporting organisations through difficult situations, transformation and change.

SWan HR provides a broad range of tailored HR services including an HR audit, HR advice, HR outsourcing, HR coaching and project work for all businesses.

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