One-sided Flexibility As Workers Receive Minimal Notice Of Their Shifts

Close to two-fifths (37%) of UK workers in full or part-time employment are given less than one week’s notice of their shifts or work patterns, according to new research conducted by the Living Wage Foundation.

The research, based on a survey of over 2,000 UK adults, found that among the 59% of workers whose job involves variable hours or shift work, over three-fifths (62%) reported having less than a week’s notice of their work schedules.  At the extreme, 12% of this group – amounting to 7% all working adults – had less than 24 hours’ notice.

While short notice periods affect workers throughout the UK, they are particularly common in London, where almost half (48%) of all workers received less than a week’s notice of work schedules.  Scotland (35%), the South of England excluding London (34%), and the North of England (33%)  are areas where short notice periods were less common.

A second survey homed in on the experience of full-time, low-paid workers, finding that they were particularly hard hit by short notice of working hours.  Of those working full time and paid below the real Living Wage, more than half (55%) had less than a week’s notice of work schedules, with 15% having less than 24 hours’ notice.  Low-paid, full-time workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (68% of whom had less than a week’s notice of work patterns) and those with children (64%) were also disproportionately affected.

The Foundation’s research shows that currently just 10% of workers who have variable working hours or conduct shift work received at least four weeks’ notice of shift patterns.  The government consulted on the issue of “one-sided flexibility” back in 2019 as part of their Good Work Plan, with proposals including:

  • A right for workers to switch to a contract which reflects the normal hours worked;
  • A right for workers to receive reasonable notice of work schedule;
  • Compensation for shift cancellation or curtailment without reasonable notice.

These proposals would have a significant impact on many workers, particularly temporary workers and the recruitment businesses that engage them.  The consultation closed in October 2019 and since then no official response has been published except for “we are analysing your feedback”.  It is likely that any resulting changes will be included in the Employment Bill which is expected later this year, and we will keep you updated.

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