The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill, introduced by Scott Benton, MP for Blackpool South, would allow workers with irregular shift patterns to formally apply to their employer to make their work more predictable.
The bill would give workers protection against inequitable flexibility that prioritises businesses over their workers, according to labour markets minister Kevin Hollinrake.
He said: “Hard-working staff on zero hours contracts across the country put their lives on hold to make themselves readily available for shifts that may never actually come.
“Employers having one-sided flexibility over their staff is unfair and unreasonable. This bill will ensure workers can request more predictable working patterns where they want them, so they can get on with their daily lives.”
Research from the Living Wage Foundation in 2022 found that nearly one in three (32%) working adults in the UK are given less than a week’s notice of their working hours, making it difficult for them to plan ahead financially.
Julia Kermode, founder of IWork, a support body for temporary and independent workers, said the declaration of support by both Conservatives and Labour was fantastic news for workers.
She told HR magazine: “Workers, including agency workers, will benefit hugely from having more stable, predictable working hours.
“Just because someone is a temp, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to know when they will be working. This is potentially a game-changer for millions of people.”
Under the legislation, workers would have to work for their employer for a specified period of time – expected to be 26 weeks – before they can make the request.
While some agencies may be concerned about how the bill would work in practice, Kermode said, the 26-week qualifying period would likely allay their fears.
She added: “Of course, as a workaround, some firms might choose to move workers on before the end of this qualifying period, which would be cynical. But I’d be surprised if this was to happen often, given how important it is that agencies retain workers, so they can place them quickly.”
Martin Tiplady, managing director of HR consultancy Chameleon People Solutions, told HR magazine: “Any measure that brings more certainty for an individual about their working hours and the like should be welcomed, especially if it eradicates some of the bad practice that has grown up around zero-hours contracts.
“The current arrangements are very one-sided and offer maximum security to the employer and zero security to the employee. That needs to be rebalanced.”
The bill has been supported in principle by both government and opposition, and will return to the Commons to be examined in detail once timetabled.