HR Expert: Zero Hours & Good Work Plan
My client has heard in the news that their zero hours’ staff may be able to ask for more stable contracts in the future. Is this right?

Judging from your client’s query it would appear that they are referring to a proposal taken from the government’s Good Work Plan, which outlines a series of future initiatives designed to grant additional rights to those working in unsecure employment.

As part of the plan it has been confirmed that all workers will have the right to request a more stable contract following 26 weeks’ service with the same employer. This means that your client’s zero-hours’ staff, who meet the service requirement, will be able to submit a request for a more fixed working pattern including a guaranteed number of hours each week or to routinely work on specific days e.g. Monday-Friday. Although the government are yet to confirm an implementation date, your client can expect this to come sometime after 2020, which should give them sufficient time to prepare.

Again, whilst it has not been confirmed, it is expected that the right to request a more stable contract will work in a similar way to the right to request flexible working. If so, then zero-hours’ staff will be expected to submit a request in writing to your client outlining their preferred conditions. Following this your client will be expected to review the request, consider whether they can agree to it and inform the employee within a timescale of three months.

When it comes to considering the request your client is advised to take into account the demands on the business in recent times as well as any future forecasts and genuinely assess if the request can be accommodated.  It is anticipated that they will be able to reject a request providing they can present a valid business reason for doing so. Therefore, if a zero-hours’ worker who routinely works 20 hours a week asks to change to a guaranteed 40 hours per week, it is likely that your client would have grounds to reject on the basis of insufficient availability of work. Whereas, if they were to ask for a guaranteed 20 hours per week, your client may have little ground to turn this down.

Ultimately, your client should consider how to prepare for receiving any requests for more stable hours. Whilst it isn’t the case that all workers on a ‘unstable’ contract will make a request, employers should ensure that they have the processes in place to deal with any that are made. This will include having clear records of working hours in the past and the ability to forecast how much work will be available in the future.

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