July 21, 2019

Good work plan: consultation on measures to address one-sided flexibility

On 19 July 2019 the government published a consultation paper to consider certain measures which are designed to address the misuse by some employers of flexible working arrangements. This consultation is particularly relevant to organisations which use zero hours, shift workers or temporary workers, and comes out of the 2016 "Review of modern working practices" by Matthew Taylor, the subsequent government "Review of Modern Working Practices" of July 2017 and the Good Work Plan of December 2018.

This consultation seeks views on;

  • A new right for all workers to reasonable notice for changes in a worker's work schedule
  • Compensation for shift cancellation or curtailment without reasonable notice
  • How any legislative policies can be supplemented with guidelines for employers (such as codes of practice or improved guidance) to tackle the problem of one-sided flexibility.

In addition to these measures, the consultation paper confirms that the government will soon be introducing legislation to give workers the right  to potentially move towards a more predictable and stable contract.  Until the legislation is published, we can't be sure of the detail but based on statements made in this consultation and the Good Work Plan (published in December 2018), it is likely to comprise the following elements:

  • The right will provide workers with greater certainty, such as around the number of hours they receive, or fixed days on which they will be asked to work. 
  • A list of circumstances where employers can refuse the request. These could possibly include: agreements made under collective bargaining; where there is no evidence to support a claim in relation to hours worked; significant, adverse change to the business; exceptional, unforeseen or emergency circumstances; or where average hours worked were affected by a temporary situation that no longer exists.
  • A qualifying period of 26 weeks.
  • A reference period for determining normal working hours.
  • A certain time period for the employer to respond to the request (possibly 3 months).
  • The right will be enforceable through the employment tribunal. 

What next?

  • If your business engages workers on flexible working arrangements such as shift workers and zero hours workers, consider having your say on the issues raised in the consultation by filling out the questionnaire found at the back of the consultation paper.  Responses should be submitted by 11 October 2019 to goodwork@beis.gov.uk
  • Look out for the government's response to the consultation to understand the detail such as what "reasonable notice to change a work schedule" means and how much the compensation will be for failure to give such notice.  This will probably be over the winter 2019/20.
  • Look out for new legislation giving workers the right to more predictable working patterns – expected soon.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/818674/Good_Work_Plan_one_sided_flexibility-consultation_.pdf