Small business owners will have to offer short or zero-hours contract workers predictable hours, unless they have a good reason not to do so.
Once a zero-hours worker has given 26 weeks of service, they can request a more predictable pattern of hours. Small business owners will have to give their decision within a month, as opposed to three months, as is the case with flexible working requests.
Business owners will have the right to turn down the request for predictable hours for reasons including a detrimental impact on their ability to meet customer demand or additional costs.
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However, Wei-Men Ho, legal director in employment for the consumer sector at law firm Eversheds Sutherland told The Times that employers who turn down zero-hours predictable hours requests could face discrimination issues if the employee making the request needs them for say, caring responsibilities.
Workers will have the option to go to an employment tribunal if they believe the request was not handled reasonably.
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill, which is backed by Government, will come into law within 12 months.
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The private member’s bill was brought forward by Scott Benton, Conservative MP for Blackpool South, to fulfil his party’s manifesto commitment.
The bill is one of seven private member’s bills addressing workplace rights going through Parliament in the absence of the employment bill announced in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, which has never been introduced.
Other bills include a change to flexible working so that employees can request it from their first day in the job.
As proposed, the predictable hours request from zero-hours workers is more wide-ranging than the existing right to request flexible working, as that only applies to full-time employees.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) — which backs the right of workers to request more predictable hours after 24 weeks of working for an employer — zero-hours contracts only account for 3 per cent of total employment.
And, despite MPs comparing them to “Victorian” working practices, their popularity is actually increasing, with four-fifths of zero-hours contracts employees telling the CIPD they were satisfied with their contacts, which are especially helpful for carers with unpredictable hours.