Employment Law Changes in 2024

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2024 promises to be a busy year for employment law. Several legal changes are ahead. In this blog, we discuss some of the changes companies can expect this year.

Carer’s leave (after April 2024)

One of the most anticipated changes to employment law is the Carer’s Leave Act that is currently expected to come into force any time after April 2024. This legislation will provide employees caring for dependents with long-term needs one week of unpaid leave annually. A dependent can be a spouse, civil partner, child or parent who lives with the employee or relies on them to arrange for care. Qualifying care responsibilities are those relating to a disability, old age, or an illness or injury lasting for more than 3 months. There will be no need for documentation beyond self-certification and there will be no minimum service requirement for eligibility.

Flexible working requests (expected April 2024)

Several changes are expected to come into force in April of 2024 regarding flexible working rights. Perhaps the most consequential is that employees are expected to receive the right to request flexible working from the commencement date of their employment rather than the current service requirement of 26 weeks. In addition, employers must consult with employees, including about alternative arrangements if the precise flexible working request cannot be provided, before rejecting a request and must respond within two months of receiving a request (decreased from 3 months). Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period (increased from one) and need no longer explain the effect their request will have on the employer.

Neonatal leave and pay (expected second half of 2024)

Though previously not expected to come into force until April 2025, it now seems that the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act will come into force in the second half of 2024. Under this act, parents of newborns who are hospitalized within the first 28 days of their life have an entitlement to Neonatal Leave if the newborn stays in hospital for 7 or more continuous days. Parents will be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave following the conclusion of maternity or paternity leave. Parents with more than 26 weeks of service before taking Neonatal Leave can receive statutory pay during the leave as long as earnings surpass the lower earnings limit, mirroring the maternity pay process.

Maternity and family leave priority status in redundancy (expected April 2024)

Current safeguards for employees on maternity leave facing potential redundancy include priority status for redeployment into a suitable alternate position. Those safeguards will soon apply as soon as an employee notifies the employer of their pregnancy and for a period of time after the pregnancy ends (expected to be a period of 6 months after returning to work). Additionally, these safeguards will also be available to employees on adoption or shared parental leave and for a period of time following the end of leave.

Holiday entitlement for part-year and irregular-hours workers (April 2024)

Following the Supreme Court decision of Harpur Trust v Brazel, which resulted in part-year workers becoming potentially entitled to a larger holiday entitlement than workers who work the same total number of hours across a full year, the government launched a consultation. The consultation ended with the government proposing to pro-rate statutory holiday entitlement proportionately to total annual hours worked and recommending the formal implementation of rolled-up holiday pay for part-year workers. As such, employers with leave years beginning on or after 01 April 2024 can calculate holiday entitlement for irregular hours and part-year workers as 12.07% of actual hours worked in a pay period. For leave years beginning before 01 April 2024, holiday entitlement will continue to be calculated in line with the Harpur Trust v. Brazel decision until 2025.

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Increases to national living wage (April 2024)

The government has recently announced the largest ever cash increase to the national minimum wage. Starting on 01 April 2024, the national minimum wage for anyone over 21 will be increased to £11.44 per hour. People between 18-20 are entitled to £8.60 per hour and 16-17 year olds as well as apprentices are entitled to £6.40 per hour. This is the first time that the minimum wage has been increased by over £1 per hour.

Post-termination non-compete clauses (timing unknown)

On 12 May 2023, the government confirmed its intention to introduce a statutory cap of three months on non-compete clauses in employment contracts and worker contracts and to produce guidance on non-compete clauses and the law underpinning them. However, the government has ruled out introducing mandatory compensation for non-competes or banning them completely.

Sexual Harassment (comes into effect in October 2024)

Employers are already liable for any act of harassment committed by employees and can only avoid liability if they demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment. So, while there is currently no proactive obligation to prevent harassment, preventive steps, such as policies, training, risk assessments, and outreach, can be helpful in defending tribunal claims. The new legislation introduces on employers an additional duty to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment, and tribunals will soon have the right to increase the compensation for sexual harassment by up to 25% if they find that an employer has breached this new duty. Preventing harassment will no longer simply be good business practice or a defense to a claim; it will be an express obligation.

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