Increased protection for Zero Hours workers

Workers right across the country will be given more say over their working patterns thanks to new laws supported by the Department for Business and Trade.

Having received Royal Assent, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill gives individuals on atypical contracts – including those on zero hours contracts – more predictable working hours.  Zero hours contracts – and other forms of atypical work – are an important part of the UK’s flexible labour market; however, the Government is determined to tackle unfair working practices.

The Predictable Working Act introduces a right for workers to request a more predictable working pattern, intending to redress the imbalance of power between some employers and workers in atypical work, encouraging workers to begin conversations with their employers about their working patterns.

Although zero hours contracts can often suit workers who want to work flexibly and employers whose needs vary, they can be abused by employers who give little notice of increased (or indeed decreased) need for such workers.  If a worker’s existing working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours they work, the times they work or if it is a fixed term contract for less than 12 months, this Bill will allow them to make a formal application to change their working pattern to make it more predictable. Once a worker has made their request, their employer will be required to notify them of their decision within one month.

Acas is producing a new Code of Practice that will provide clear guidance on making and handling requests. This will help workers and businesses understand the law and have constructive discussions around working arrangements that suit them both. The draft Code will be available for public consultation in the coming weeks.

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 comes as part of a package of Private Member Bills this government has backed over the last few months, cementing the UK’s prevalent worker’s rights laws. These include:

  • supporting employee parents of new-born babies who are admitted into neonatal care with up to 12 weeks of paid neonatal care leave
  • requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges received are paid to workers in full
  • offering pregnant women and new parents greater protection against redundancy
  • entitling employees who are also unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave
  • providing millions of employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work

As ever, 121 HR Solutions will alert their clients to any changes as soon as they are embedded into law.

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