Could a review of modern working practices be the end for zero-hour contracts?

Written by Jennifer Ormond
27 September, 2023

The so-called ‘gig economy’ could be up for a big change if a new bill comes into place, following initial approval by the government.

In 2017 the Taylor review recommended a review of modern working practices and many of the recommendations were intended to support employees or workers.

The recent ban on exclusivity clauses and second jobs came from the Taylor review, as well as other proposals to increase and improve parental leave, rights for pregnant women and flexible working.

The Worker (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill was recommended by Blackpool South MP Scott Benton and approved by the government for debate by Parliament.  The Bill has now been passed by Parliament and has received Royal Assent (the King’s signature) although we do not yet have an implementation date it is likely that the law will come into effect from September 2024.

The law aims to provide more certainty to agency, zero-hours or flexible workers and fixed-term employees by providing more secure contracts and minimum-hour guarantees.  This is likely to have an impact on businesses in terms of implementing changes, updating contracts and ensuring that lay-off or short-time working clauses are present and reliable to enable a degree of flexibility where possible.

What are the changes?

The law will allow:

  • A worker whose existing hours lack certainty in terms of the hours or time they work has the ‘right to request’ a fixed hours contract, with limited grounds for refusal;
  • Workers on fixed-term contracts of 12 months or less to request either a longer-term contract or the removal of clauses relating to the fixed-term nature of the agreement;
  • Agency workers can request either their agency or the end used for certainty over hours and times of work if they meet certain qualifying condition

The right to request is extended to a request for :

  • A minimum number of guaranteed hours per week;
  • Statutory paid holiday entitlements;
  • To implement a minimum advance notice period for scheduling

Is there a qualifying period?

The right to request is restricted to those with appropriate qualifying service, we are waiting for clarification on this but it is likely  to be 26 weeks continuous service

How will this affect businesses?

  • Contract reviews (loss of management time)
  • Scheduling
  • Possible over-staffing
  • Increased wages
  • Lack of flexibility

We believe that it is most likely to affect businesses in the gig economy most, or retail and hospitality.

There are however, some benefits to businesses who embrace these changes.  We have experienced a distinct shift in recruitment in businesses that have welcomed the employee-friendly changes suggested in the Taylor Review.  Businesses who seek to guarantee hours now, before they are legally required to do so, are likely to find that they attract better talent and retain them in employment for longer.  This saved money and time for businesses.  Retaining talent is much more cost-efficient than recruitment.

Any business that wants to review their working practices or make changes now (it pays to be ahead of the curve) should contact us to discuss their requirements in more detail.

Employment Law Solutions can help you to ensure that your business is prepared for the Worker’s Bill and make steady progress now.  Call 01270 781006 to talk to Luke and our team of lawyers for a no-obligation, free chat.

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