Navigating employment law changes in 2024


Navigating employment law changes in 2024

This year is set to witness a few changes in employment law, marked by the implementation of a series of regulations starting in January, with more on the horizon.

To maintain compliance and mitigate the risk of expensive legal claims, businesses must review their policies and procedures. By taking a proactive approach, such as training managers and updating policies and procedures in advance, valuable time and resources can be saved when considering the broader implications.

Paternity Leave

Effective from 8th March 2024, several changes have been implemented regarding paternity leave. These changes will apply to employees whose expected week of childbirth (EWC) or adoption placement begins on or after 6th April 2024.

The new regulations entail the following:

  • Employees have the option to take either a one-week or two-week continuous period of leave, or they can opt for two non-consecutive periods of leave, with each period lasting one week.
  • The leave can be taken within 52 weeks following the birth or adoption placement.
  • Employees are still required to provide at least 15 weeks’ notice before the EWC (or as soon as reasonably practical if that’s not feasible) to indicate their intention to take leave. However, they are not obligated to confirm the exact dates until at least 28 days before the leave period is scheduled to commence.

Holiday Changes

Commencing from 1st April 2024, there will be new regulations governing the calculation of holiday entitlement and the option to provide rolled-up holiday pay. These changes specifically impact holiday years that commence on or after the this date. They are applicable to two categories of workers: part-year workers (those who have at least one week per year without work or pay) and irregular hours workers (individuals whose paid working hours in each pay period are predominantly variable).

For these workers, holiday entitlement will accrue at a rate of 12.07% of the hours worked during each pay period. Employers will have the flexibility to choose between two options:

1.Paying holiday pay to the workers when they take their holidays.

2.Implementing rolled-up holiday pay. This approach involves adding a supplementary amount to the worker’s regular pay, representing the holiday pay earned during that particular pay period. The calculation for this rolled-up payment is based on 12.07% of the pay received for that pay period. It is essential for the rolled-up holiday pay to be itemised separately on the worker’s payslip. However, when the worker takes time off for a holiday, they will not receive payment for this period.

These new regulations can be implemented for holiday years starting on or after 1st April 2024. For instance, if a company’s holiday year spans from January to December, they can adopt these rules from 1st January 2025.

Carers’ Leave

Starting from 6th April, employees will be granted a new entitlement from their first day of employment. They will have the right to take up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave within a 12-month period to provide or arrange care for a dependent with a long-term care need. This leave can be taken in full or half-day increments, subject to a notice requirement of three days or double the length of leave requested, whichever is longer.

Employers are not permitted to refuse this leave, although they have the option to postpone it if they reasonably believe that allowing the leave at that specific time would unduly disrupt their business operations. However, the postponed leave must be granted within one month of the originally requested date. A counter notice must be served, explaining the reasons for the postponement and specifying the agreed new date for the leave to be taken.

It is important to emphasise that employers are not allowed to request proof or justification for the need to take carer’s leave.

Flexible working 

Starting from 6th April, the right to request flexible working will be available to all employees from their first day of employment.

Although separate regulations outlining the changes specified in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 have not yet been published by the government, Acas has issued a revised statutory code on requests for flexible working that incorporates these changes. The code is to come into effect on 6th April. While it is not legally binding, it will be taken into consideration by tribunals when handling cases. Therefore, employers should incorporate these changes into their flexible working policies.

Under the new regulations, businesses will be obligated to engage in consultations with employees and explore alternative options before rejecting a flexible working request. The decision on applications must be made within two months, as opposed to the current three-month period (including any appeal process).

Additionally, employees will now have the right to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, rather than just one.

Extension of protection during redundancy for those on family leave

Currently, employees on maternity leave, adoption leave, and shared parental leave have certain protections when their current role is made redundant. They are given priority over other employees in being offered any suitable alternative positions that may be available. However, effective from 6th April, these protections will be extended as follows:

1.Pregnant employees will have this protection from the point they notify their employer of their pregnancy until 18 months after the birth of their child.

2.Employees who have taken adoption leave will be protected for 18 months from the date of the placement of the child.

3.Employees taking less than six weeks of shared parental leave will have this protection throughout their period of leave. On the other hand, employees taking more than six consecutive weeks of shared parental leave will be protected for 18 months after the birth of their child.

These extensions aim to provide additional safeguards and support for employees during and after these specific leave periods, ensuring fair treatment and opportunities in situations of redundancy.

Sexual harassment

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023, which will be effective from October 2024, introduces a new obligation for employers to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Under current legislation, employers can be held liable for instances of harassment at work unless they can demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent it. This includes implementing appropriate policies, providing training to all employees on these policies, and addressing incidents of harassment in a suitable manner. It is crucial for businesses to ensure compliance with these requirements because, in the event of a breach, tribunals will have the authority to increase compensation by up to 25 percent.

The upcoming legislation emphasises the need for employers to actively take preventative action against sexual harassment, creating a safer and more inclusive work environment.

Allocation of tips

From 1 July, workers will be entitled to 100 per cent of the tips they receive without deductions from their employer, other than reductions required by law such as tax. The tips must be paid to workers by the end of the month following the month in which the tip was paid. Employers must have a written policy explaining how tips will be allocated and maintain records of tip allocation for at least three years that workers can access on request.

The government has recently consulted on a new statutory code of practice that employers will have to take into account when complying with the new rules.

Predictable working patterns

Coming into force in October 2024, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will give a statutory right to workers to request a more predictable working pattern where their working pattern is unpredictable (which will include those on a fixed-term contract for less than 12 months). Similar to flexible working requests, employers will have the right to refuse the request on a number of grounds.

Preparation is Key

Preparation is vital when it comes to navigating employment law changes. The upcoming amendments will undoubtedly affect the daily operations of businesses, especially SMEs facing economic challenges. To remain compliant and minimise potential claims, managers should take the following steps:

1.Policy Amendments: Review and update existing policies to align with the new regulations. This includes policies related to holiday entitlement, carer’s leave, paternity leave, flexible working, protection against redundancy, and prevention of sexual harassment.

2.Communication: Effectively communicate the changes to employees, ensuring they are aware of their updated rights and entitlements. Provide clear information on how the changes will be implemented within the organisation.

3.Process Updates: Modify internal processes to accommodate the new requirements. This may involve adjusting leave request procedures, updating record-keeping systems, and ensuring timely responses to employee requests.

4.Proactive Approach: Take a proactive stance in implementing the changes rather than waiting for issues to arise. By being proactive, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to compliance and encourage a positive work culture.

By undertaking these proactive measures, businesses can adapt to the new regulations, reduce the risk of claims, and maintain a balanced working environment. Seeking legal advice or consulting relevant resources can also be beneficial in navigating these changes effectively.

If you feel you need help with any of the above, please get in touch. We are here to help.

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