ACAS has launched a consultation on its draft statutory Code of Practice entitled ‘Handling Requests for a Predictable Working Pattern’.
The Code will sit alongside the new Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act, expected to come into force in September 2024. The Act will give workers and agency workers whose current terms lack “predictability”, the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work.
The consultation follows in the wake of growing concerns surrounding both the impact on well-being and the financial viability of unpredictable working patterns, often associated with zero-hour contracts.
The draft code
The draft Code states if a worker’s existing working patterns lack predictability in terms of the hours they work, the times that they are expected to work or the length or duration of their contract, a worker may issue a request to make this pattern more predictable. Once workers have made a request to their employer, their employer will be obligated to notify them of a decision one month.
It sets out how such requests should be handled. The Code will not be legally binding, but will be considered by courts and employment tribunals when determining cases. It provides guidance on the following ‘best practice’ points:
- Holding a meeting to discuss a request before making and finalising a decision
- Who should be allowed to accompany a worker at meetings to discuss a request
- Where employers should accept a request if possible
- Where employers are able to lawfully reject requests for certain legally allowed reasons and how best to communicate these reasons clearly to employees and workers
- How employers should offer and handle an appeal where a request has been rejected.
The draft Code outlines the criteria that workers must satisfy in order to make a request, being that they must have worked for the employer at least once per month for a 26 week period.
Employers can only reject an application on one or more prescribed grounds, including burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand and insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work.
Employers should consider:
- Implementing a policy in line with the provisions of the draft Code. Such as a ‘predictable working requests’ policy, similar to any existing policy regarding flexible working requests
- What justifications will be available to it to turn down any request. This requires reviewing why flexible or casual labour is needed in the business and whether the business has got a suitable balance between permanent and casual labour that works for all parties.
ACAS welcomes contributions from all interested parties by 17 January 2024, which can be done using the online form on the ACAS website.