Increased rights for agency and zero hours workers

Increased rights for agency and zero hours workers

Many employers utilise the flexibility that agency and zero hours workers can provide, requesting that they work as and when suits the needs of the business, however that approach has caused some determinant to workers. There has been some bad press in relation to zero hours contracts, with a recent claim that they could even made illegal, however some employees value the flexibility that they offer.

In a bid to rectify the one-sided flexibility that favours employers, the Government has now backed a Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, to give those workers the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work.

What does this mean for employers?

If approved, the new right will be available to:

  • Those that have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks (even if not continuously)
  • Those that have a fixed term contract of less than 12 months’
  • Those whose work patterns, including the hours and time they work, are uncertain

The right to request a more predictable working pattern allows workers to request clarity over: time, days to be worked, hours or where there are irregular shift patterns.

Workers will be able to make two requests a year to change their working pattern to make it more predictable.

Can employers refuse a request?

In a similar way to dealing with flexible working requests, employers will have the ability to refuse a request providing one of the following grounds is met:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • there would be a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • there would be a detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff
  • there would be a detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business
  • there would be an insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work
  • planned structural changes, and
  • such other grounds as the Secretary of State may specify

What do employers need to do?

Until the Bill becomes law, employers do not need to do anything specifically, however they should keep an eye on any updates as they may need to introduce new policies. Employers should also ensure that they do not take advantage of employees working under flexible contracts.

If the Bill is approved, employers must ensure they deal with a request in a reasonable manner and notify the worker of the decision within a month of notification. Whilst the guidance as to what would be deemed “reasonable” has not yet been specified, it is likely that employers will need to meet with the worker to discuss the request and allow the worker to make any further representations.

If you would like any further advice on the rights of workers or would like us to review any policies, please do get in touch with a member of our Employment team on 01752 663295.

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