2024 looks to be a busy one on the employment law front, with changes to some existing legislation and a number of new laws coming into force this year.
The main changes are around family-friendly rights, as follows:
While flexible working rights have been around for a few years now, this year sees the introduction of a couple of changes to the existing legislation which will affect employers. Firstly, with effect from 6th April this year, the right to make a flexible working request will be extended to all employees, no matter how long they have worked for the business. Previously, employees needed 6 months’ service to be eligible to apply for flexible working, however, it will now be a ‘day 1 right’. In addition, with effect from April 6th, employees will now be entitled to make up to two flexible working requests in a year, where previously they were limited to one request a year.
Existing handbook policies should be checked to ensure they are in line with the new requirements by the beginning of April – talk to us if you need help with this, as MAD-HR are able to review and amend existing policies to ensure you are compliant.
This is a new right for employees which will come into force from 6th April 2024. Like the flexible working changes above, this will be a day 1 right for carers to take up to 1 week’s unpaid leave a year, in order to provide care for a dependent with a long-term illness or injury. Employees will need to give formal notice of their intention to take up the leave and they can request part days or full days. Developing a Carer’s Leave policy will be key in helping to ensure both employees and employers are clear on entitlements and expectations on both sides.
Neo-natal Care leave
Neo-natal Care Leave is a new right to paid leave for parents whose babies need neonatal care. We are still awaiting guidance from the government on the full details of this new policy and it is unlikely to be introduced before 2025.
Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave Act)
With effect from 6th April 2024, the protection currently available to pregnant employees in a redundancy situation has been extended. This means that the right to be offered suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation will be extended from the period of pregnancy to a period of 18 months after birth or placement for adoption.
Currently, fathers who wish to take paternity leave can only take a single block of either 1 week or two weeks. New reforms mean that fathers will now be able to take the leave as two separate blocks if they wish. The limit of when the leave can be taken is also to be extended, from the current limit of within 8 weeks after birth to within 12 months of the birth or placement for adoption.
While all these changes can feel like the pressure is increasing on hard-pressed employers, employees are increasingly looking for ever greater flexibility in when and how they work. Employers who can embrace these changes will give themselves an advantage in the recruitment market and attract the best talent.
Other employment law changes coming this year
Holiday pay calculations
After the controversy surrounding the employment tribunal decision in Harpur Trust vs. Brazel, the government has decided to simplify the rules around calculating holiday pay for workers with variable hours or those who work part years. The changes will apply to leave years starting on or after 1st April 2024 and see the return of the simplified calculation of holiday pay based on 12.07% of actual hours worked in a pay period. In addition, the previously unlawful practice of paying rolled-up holiday pay will become lawful again after April 1st this year, making holiday pay calculations and payments a little easier than they have been in previous years.
Terms and conditions
Later in the year, workers with variable or unpredictable hours (such as agency staff and zero-hours workers) will be able to take advantage of a new right to request a predictable working pattern. The right is expected to come into force in the autumn of this year, at which point the government will issue a statutory Code of Conduct for employers. The rules around making the request are likely to be similar to those which currently apply to making a flexible working request.
Duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
With effect from October 2024, employers will be under an increased duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. As with the right to request a predictable working pattern, the government is expected to issue a Code of Conduct with guidance for employers on what is meant by ‘reasonable steps’. A finding at tribunal that an employer has failed to do so could result in any damages awarded for a sexual harassment claim being increased by up to 25%, in line with the current provision for a failure to follow the ACAS Code on disciplinaries and grievances. Employers should consider reviewing existing policies and procedures in these areas, as well as offering Equality, Diversity & Inclusion training to managers and staff.
If you are an employer and would like help and advice on any of the areas covered in this blog whether it be updating your existing policies and procedures, creating new ones or upskilling managers to understand and implement these changes in your business, please get in touch.