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New legislation is going to come into force (expected September 2024) introducing a new right for workers to request more predictable working patterns, such as the hours or days they’re required to work.

Particularly important if you have any zero-hours contracts, the new right introduced by The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will apply to:

  • Workers whose existing working patterns lack certainty in terms of the hours or times they work;
  • Workers on fixed-term contracts of 12 months or less (who are able to request a longer fixed-term period); and
  • Agency workers (who can make a request to the agency or the hirer).

Here’s what we know so far about how the new right will work in practice:

Length of service – workers will need 26 weeks’ service before making a request (these will not need to be continuous).

How many requests – workers can make up to two requests each year.

What should a request look like – any request must be specific as to the change being applied for (hours of work, days of work, period of engagement, for example) and the date the change should take effect.

Dealing with requests – you will need to deal with any requests in a reasonable manner (yet to be defined) and notify the worker of your decision within one month.

Refusing requests – there are currently six specific grounds for refusing a request listed in the Act (such as the burden of additional costs). More may be added.

Accepting a request – you must offer the new terms within two weeks of granting the request. You must not make any detrimental changes to other terms at the same time as making the required changes arising from the request.

Consequences of getting it wrong – we’ll need to wait for the regulations for concrete detail, but we can assume that breaching the new requirements could give rise to compensation, likely up to eight weeks’ pay, if a claim is brought at tribunal (along with all the associated legal and reputational costs). We’ll cover this in more detail in our following updates.

Acas will publish a Code of Practice on how to deal with requests, and in our next two updates, we’ll look at the consequences for failing to comply with the new requirements and what practical changes you’ll need to make to your documents and processes. Get in touch with any questions. 
This update is accurate on the date it was published, but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.