Owen Daniels Agency Workers
15th November 2023

What is the Predictable Terms Act and how does it affect agency workers?


Zero-hour and agency workers will soon have a new legal right to request a more predictable work schedule. This is thanks to the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill, a Private Member's Bill expected to be passed by parliament without opposition. The bill will make changes to the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill aims to address the problem of 'one-sided flexibility', where a worker has no assurance of work but is expected to be available at short notice when required. This often results in unstable working hours and a lack of secure income. The issue of 'one-sided flexibility' was identified in the Good Work Plan in 2018, which led to a government consultation in 2019. It was subsequently announced that new legislation would be introduced to tackle these problems.

What is it?

To sum up, employees who are on zero-hour or agency contracts, have worked for at least 26 weeks, and have unpredictable working hours can make a formal request for a predictable working pattern. They can submit two requests per year, and the employer has to handle the requests fairly and within a month's time.

Additionally, workers on fixed term contracts of less than 12 months may request a more permanent contract. This is because contracts shorter than a year are considered less predictable.

Key Features of the Predictable Terms Act:

  1. Right to request predictable work patterns: The Act grants workers and agency workers the right to request a predictable work pattern.
  2. 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.
  3. Minimum length of service: It is expected that the right will apply to workers with a minimum of 26 weeks’ service.
  4. Number of requests: Workers can make two requests within a 12-month period.
  5. 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.
  6. Claims: The Act enables workers to make claims based on procedural failings by the employer, unlawful detriment, and automatic unfair dismissal.

How can employers prepare?

  1. It is important to review the composition of your workforce to assess the level of engagement among employees and determine whether zero-hour or agency workers, who are frequently called upon, could be engaged as employees or workers on a permanent basis. Doing this may prevent applications for predictable working and provide you with a more efficient workforce.
  2. Creating checklists that outline business requirements for different roles can be a really helpful way to streamline your recruitment process. If you do need to bring on zero-hour or agency workers, it's important to assess your requirements alongside the reasons why you can refuse predictable working patterns and make a note of those reasons that apply. This will help you to be better prepared for an influx of requests and ensure that you're front-loading your requirements from the get-go.
  3. Once new legislation is enacted – implement new policies and procedures setting out your workers’ rights and the processes you will follow.

According to the press release, the government anticipates that the Act and regulations will take effect about a year after receiving Royal Assent. This delay is intended to give employers sufficient time to prepare for the changes. This means that the new regulations and ACAS Code should be published soon, so that employers can adopt new procedures to ensure compliance.

Zero hours contracts offer both employers and individuals flexibility but should not be considered a substitute for good business planning or as an indefinite arrangement.

If you’re an employer struggling to work out the specifics of a zero-hour worker’s pay and contractual Terms and Conditions, follow this link: Contract Recruitment (owendaniels.co.uk)


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