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Acas Predictable Working Pattern Code will create red tape for contractors, says APSCo

Acas created a draft Code of Practice in response to The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has said the draft Acas Code of Practice on handling predictable working pattern requests will create more red tape, reduce productivity and hinder contractor recruitment.

Acas created a draft code in response to The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act, which is expected to come into force in autumn 2024.

The new law means if a worker's existing working pattern lacks predictability in terms of the hours they work, the times they work or the length of their contract, they will be able to make a formal request to change their working pattern to make it more predictable.

Read more: Acas launches predictable working pattern consultation

Once a worker has made their request, their business will be required to notify them of their decision within one month.

Acas had a consultation on their new draft code on how to handle requests, which closed on 26 January 2024.

Susan Clews, Acas chief executive, said: "Our code outlines the steps that need to be taken to ensure that requests are handled in a reasonable manner.

This includes weighing up the potential benefits and other impacts of the requested change for both sides.”

However, in its response to the code, APSCo said concessions need to be made for highly skilled contractors, without impacting the necessary requirements for those in more transactional roles who would benefit from the recommendations.

Tania Bowers, global public policy director at APSCo, said: “While there is a segment of the workforce that is more heavily involved in transactional jobs and may be in longer-term work with one hirer that will benefit from these proposals, the Act itself isn’t suitable for all. 

“Agency work, by its nature, is atypical, and may be unpredictable. There are sectors where agency work may be used as a means of outsourcing the legal risks of hiring low-paid workers on unpredictable hours. 

“However, in professional sectors, contracting is often highly paid, and it is normal for assignments to have regular, predictable hours. It makes no sense, then, for a recruiter to be responsible for providing predictable hours for these workers.”

Bowers added that when workers are hired by umbrella companies, it is unclear who will be responsible for handling predictable working requests.

She said: “Many professional temporary workers are employed by umbrella companies for the purpose of supply and to remain inside IR35. It is unclear who is the agency for the purpose of the code. They are generally highly paid, skilled professionals able to make their own decisions about how they work, who are enrolled in employment due to tax law only.

Read more: How HR should prepare for the introduction of predictable hours legislation

An Acas spokesperson told HR magazine: “Our public consultation on our draft code has recently closed and we are currently analysing all responses. We very much welcome all comments and insights we receive, and will consider these in detail as we revise the code.”

You can read the full draft code here.