With October half-term around the corner, summer is well and truly over. Several exciting employment law developments have been announced in recent weeks, though these may have been missed by those on annual leave or otherwise making the most of the summer.
Employers, in particular, should ensure that they are up to speed on these impending changes and what they could mean for the workforce in the coming months.
These developments include:
Enhanced protection for workers expected in September 2024
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 introduces a new statutory right for workers to request a more predictable working pattern. The Act is set to offer enhanced protection to agency workers, workers whose existing work patterns lack certainty in terms of hours or times, and workers on a fixed-term contract of less than 12-months (all of whom are eligible to request a more predictable working pattern under the new legislation).
Any such ‘request’ must specify the change being applied for and the date it should take effect. The ‘request’ for more predictable hours could be for consistency in days of work, periods of engagement or even hours of work. If granted, it could offer workers certainty, clarity, and, on the mental health front, have a positive impact towards workplace morale. Workers should have reassurance in terms of their working patterns (with worker status having previously been a thorny area in this respect) and in turn, be able to pre-empt other aspects of their lives outside of work.
These changes mean employers need to implement a clear process for dealing with such requests. The Act requires employers to deal with any requests in a reasonable manner and notify any worker who has made a request of their decision within one month from the date of the request.
Employers do have discretion to refuse any request, on any of the six specific grounds listed in the Act (which include the burden of additional costs in agreeing such a request) though all employers should be mindful of any workers with protected characteristics and whether these, and things such as childcare commitments or the need to attend medical appointments, have occasioned the worker’s request – in which case, the worker could be invited to make a flexible working request instead and if predictability in respect of working conditions may be difficult to provide in practice. All employers should ensure that any prospective decision-making process is well documented when these changes are eventually rolled out.
Employers should also take the development seriously and rather than look at ways of shoehorning the workers’ request into one of the six reasons for refusal, try to adapt its own processes to accommodate predictability for workers who genuinely could benefit from it.
A worker can only make two requests for predictability of working conditions in any 12-month period.
If an employer accepts a request, then they must offer the worker new terms within two weeks of granting the request. Employers cannot make other contractual changes at the same time as making agreed changes in line with any worker predictability request.
This Act is expected to be rolled out in September 2024, with a draft Code of Practice for employers set to be unveiled by ACAS in the coming weeks.
New Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) procedural guidance
This has been released in the form of the EAT Practice Direction 2023 and, in addition to introducing other changes to the existing EAT procedural rules, the EAT Practice Direction 2023:
– Emphasises the 4pm cut-off time for anyone looking to appeal a Tribunal decision to submit their appeal;’
– Introduces a new form to be used when a party makes an application for permission to appeal, pursuant to rule 3(10); and
– Introduces a new form to be used whenever any application is made to the EAT (be it to amend or expedite an appeal).
The EAT Practice Direction is a key read for employers, as it dictates (perhaps more clearly than the existing rules) all aspects of employment appeal procedure.
The above changes are key to take stock of, as they will be rolled out in the next calendar year.
Any proactive employers looking to start pre-empting internal policies and procedures in readiness for these changes should make contact with our experienced employment team, for guidance in this respect (email@example.com).
Please note, any reference to legislation is true as at the date of this article being published. Please always consult the current legislation and/or guidance.