Whilst 2023 saw numerous developments in employment law within the UK, it would be fair to say that 2024 promises to be much busier!
As we welcome the new year in, here is my summary of what we can expect to see in 2024 which will affect both employees and employers.
The Employment Rights (Amendments, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations came into force on 1 January 2024. This seeks to clarify the law relating to holiday pay following years of litigation and confusion. For a full breakdown of the changes both employers and employees can expect, see here.
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023, which was brought into force on 4 December 2023, and takes effect from April 2024, will entitle employees to take one week’s unpaid leave a year to provide or arrange care for a dependant (including a spouse, civil partner, child or parent). Employers will not be able to decline an employee’s request for this leave but may be able to postpone it by up to a month in certain circumstances.
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 is also due to come into force in April 2024. The Act will allow employees to make two flexible working requests in a 12-month period (compared to one under the current law) and will not require employees to explain to their employer the potential impact granting this request would have. Employers will also have to respond to any flexible working request within two months (rather than three), as well as consult with an employee if it wishes to reject their request. In a climate where many businesses are seeking to move away from remote or hybrid working arrangements introduced during the pandemic and maintained since, we can expect to see flexible working requests become an increasingly central feature of employment law that all HR practitioners and employers will need to be ready for.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 is also expected to come into force in April 2024, and will increase redundancy protections for pregnant employees, as well as those on, or returning from, maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave. Currently, employees on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave have a right to be offered a suitable alternative role in their job before being made redundant. The Act will expand this protection to cover pregnant employees from the moment they inform their employer of their pregnancy, and for employees on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, until 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or placement date.
The Worker (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023, which will come into effect around September 2024, and will allow workers with unpredictable working patterns (such as those on zero hour contracts or fixed-terms contracts of 12 months or less) to request a more predictable working pattern. Further information on these changes, and the potential impact on employers, can be found here.
The Worker Protection (Amendments of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023, which will come into force in October 2024, and will require employers to take proactive and reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. This legislation – whilst watered down during the parliamentary process from earlier drafts – remains significant in the new positive duty that it places upon employers. What “reasonable” means for employers, however, will likely become clear as case law around this legislation develops – but at the very least all employers would do well to consider introducing training to their workforce in 2024.
Other key employment law developments
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023, which took effect on 31 December 2023, ends the principle of supremacy of EU law and removes all directly effective EU rights. The Act also gives government ministers new powers to reform EU derived laws. Though the government has not indicated it intends to use these powers, the Act does have the potential to have a significant impact moving forwards. It is of significant importance to employment lawyers, as many employment law principles and caselaw has derived from the EU (a notable example being in regard to holiday pay and accrual) all of which, in theory, no longer necessarily applies. The prospect of creative litigation is likely.
Following the Autumn 2023 Statement, from 1 April 2024, National Living Wage will increase from £10.42 to £11.44, and will apply to workers aged 21 and over (rather than 23 and over). Though a welcome change for many employees, these record increases in pay levels are likely to impact businesses at a time when the economy remains uncertain.
Finally, the next UK general election is widely expected to take place in 2024. If Labour were elected, they say that the Employment Rights Bill, which it has committed to introducing within the first 100 days of office, will introduce the following changes:
- A ban on zero-hour contracts
- A ban on “fire and rehire”
- A range of equality and anti-discrimination measures
- Extending statutory sick pay entitlement
- Removing the two-year requirement to bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim
- Extending the time limit to bring an employment tribunal claim to six months
- Reforming trade union law to remove some of the restrictions on union recognition and industrial action
Some of the above changes, it goes without saying, would have significant impact.
Though a lot of these expected changes will require further clarification (or may not even happen), it is important that employers and HR personnel are aware of what is to come in 2024 in order to adequately prepare their policies and procedures, and avoid any potential pitfalls.
The Employment Team at Leathes Prior are on hand to assist businesses with these new changes. If you would like to know what any of the above changes mean for you, please get in touch by phone on 01603 610911 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: the contents of this article are for general information only and do not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any particular circumstance.