New measures to be introduced by the UK Government to combat one-sided flexibility and support variable hours workers will require employers to put more planning into how they use atypical working arrangements.

The Government announced in its recent consultation paper: Measures to address one-sided flexibility that it is to legislate to give all workers the right to switch to a more predictable work pattern.

It is also seeking employers’ views on the introduction of a right for all workers to have reasonable notice of work schedules and compensation when shifts are cancelled without reasonable notice.

These measures are designed to ensure employers provide more choice and certainty to variable hours workers over their working arrangements and address some common problems associated with atypical working. For example, CIPD research, which is cited in the consultation document, shows that 17% of employers with low-paid workers who had flexible hours, provided workers with no more than a day’s notice prior to their shift. In addition, our research on zero hours contract workers also shows that while the majority are satisfied with their jobs and working arrangements, 40% reported they receive no notice when work is cancelled.

The consultation asks employers what they would define as reasonable notice of work schedules as well as the likely impact a right to a reasonable notice would have on their operations. It also seeks views on whether the right to a reasonable notice of work schedules should be something that is guaranteed from the start of someone’s employment, or if an individual should need to work for a certain amount of time before becoming eligible.

On the issue of compensation for the cancellation of shifts at short notice, the consultation paper seeks views on what should be considered to be a ‘fair’ amount of compensation and puts forward three suggested options:

  • The value of the shift in question
  • The worker’s appropriate NMW rate multiplied by their scheduled number of hours that have been cancelled
  • A multiple of the worker’s appropriate NMW rate - and if so, what multiple?

CIPD is currently consulting with members to inform our response to government on the consultation which closes on 11 October.

What is certain is that the measures will require many employers to improve their planning over how they use atypical working arrangements, as well as well as how they support and train managers responsible for overseeing variable hours workers.

To help employers think more strategically about the management of atypical workers to ensure working arrangements are fair and flexibility works for both the organisation and the individual, the CIPD has published new guidance.

The guidance, which sets out how employers can achieve this ‘win win’ proposition, was informed by a number of case studies of organisations that use atypical workers in different ways, as well as by two employer roundtables.

The starting point is for organisations to consider carefully the business requirements for workforce flexibility and the different ways of achieving this.

If atypical working arrangements are regarded as one of the appropriate ways of providing the flexibility required, the next step is to consider carefully how to implement and manage these arrangements fairly and effectively. Key considerations include ensuring that both parties have complete clarity over the type of contract and associated employment rights, underpinned by a clear statement of employment particulars from the first day of employment – something that will become a legislative requirement from April 2020.

Employers then need to ensure that atypical workers are treated fairly, understand what their job involves, and receive training (where required) to enable them to perform to the necessary standard. This will require organisations to make sure managers and supervisors manage atypical workers in a way that reflects their employment contract and status and review this regularly.

Managers also need to provide atypical workers with well-defined objectives and communicate regularly and clearly by, for example, providing constructive feedback. The guide also highlights the importance of atypical workers being able to exercise their own voice and raise any issues or concerns they have via staff forums or councils, or through union representation.

Another important issue is choice, and the extent to which individuals working atypically can choose the working pattern that suits them. One of the case study organisations featured, McDonald’s, is a good example of an employer that maximises choice, providing people with the opportunity to work on zero hours contracts while enjoying full employee status, or to opt for fixed hours instead.

At the heart of managing atypical workers in an ethical manner is fairness. This means employers need to ensure that, for example, where atypical workers work alongside regular employees, employers treat them equally, providing comparable rates of pay or appropriate compensation if shifts are cancelled with little or no notice.

The core principles of good practice when managing an atypical workforce are not only important for the job satisfaction and well-being of individuals working in this way, but also to increase their motivation and customer service quality and reduce staff turnover and recruitment costs.

If you would like to contribute to our work on this consultation, please get in touch.

About the author

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy

Ben leads the CIPD’s Public Policy team, which works to inform and shape debate, government policy and legislation in order to enable higher performance at work and better pathways into work for those seeking employment. His particular research and policy areas of interest include employment relations, employee engagement and wellbeing, absence and stress management, and leadership and management capability.

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