Third reading for Bill promoting predictable working hours

A Private Member’s Bill on predictable working hours gets its third reading in Parliament today.

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A Bill to give workers and agency workers the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work has its third reading in Parliament today.

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill has been put forward by Conservative MP Scott Benton. It is another Private Member’s Bill that has come about after the Government shelved its Employment Bill based on the 2017 Taylor Review to address ‘one-sided flexibility’. It doesn’t go as far as the Review’s recommendations, however, having dropped a proposed right to reasonable notice of work schedules and compensation for short notice shift cancellations.

The Bill proposes new provisions in the Employment Rights Act 1996 which would give certain workers, agency workers and employees a new statutory right to request a predictable working pattern.

It is likely to include annualised hours contract if their hours vary over time at the employer’s discretion. Those on short fixed-term contracts may also be able to request an extension on their contract. There are slightly different restrictions in relation to agency workers. It is likely those eligible will have to have continuous service with one employer for at least 26 weeks before they can make a request.

As with flexible working requests, there is no obligation on the employer to agree a request, but the employer must deal with the application in ‘a reasonable manner’ and must respond within one month. A request can only be rejected for specific reasons, which are similar to those for flexible working, including the burden of additional costs, detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand, detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff, detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business, insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work and planned structural changes.

Two applications can be made a year in relation to the same employer.

According to law firm Lewis Silkin: “[The Bill] is likely to have the greatest impact on industries where shift patterns vary as rotas change, and where work is very casual in nature, although whether it will amount to much more than another “box ticking” exercise remains to be seen.”

Meanwhile, another Private Member’s Bill linked to the shelved Employment Bill is making its way through the House of Lords. The Neonatal Care Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords today. It will enable working parents in England, Scotland and Wales with a newborn requiring neonatal care in hospital for more than seven days to be eligible for 12 weeks paid leave in addition to other entitlements such as maternity pay.

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