2024 is going to be a busy year for new employment legislation. So, what are the key changes that employers need to be aware of?
New flexible working rules
- Many employers with office-based staff are continuing to struggle to entice their staff back to work in the office and have seen an increase in flexible working requests as a result.
- Such requests are likely to increase when rules on making flexible working requests are relaxed in April and it becomes a day-one right.
- Employees will be able to make up to two flexible working requests a year instead of one, and will no longer need to explain how the flexible working arrangements they are requesting will affect their employer’s business.
- Employers must now consult with an employee about their flexible working request before they refuse it, and the time limit for dealing with a request has been shortened from three to two months.
- ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service for employers and employees) issued an updated draft Code of Practice on Flexible Working on 11 January which is expected to be finalised before April.
Holiday pay and entitlement
- There are changes to the rules on holiday pay, some of which came into force on 1 January, and others which will take effect from April.
- These changes include the way in which holiday is calculated for: irregular hours workers; for leave years starting on or after 1 April 2024; and the rules on carry over of accrued holiday entitlement for those who have taken family or sick leave.
- Employers will need to be far more proactive about telling their employees to take their holidays. Otherwise, they risk employees being able to carry over annual leave entitlement indefinitely, until such time as they do take appropriate steps to encourage employees and allow them to take their annual leave.
- There are other changes which codify previous case law decisions in this complex area of employment law. It was widely expected that the distinction between which elements of pay should be included in the 20 days’ leave entitlement under the Working Time Directive; let’s call it Euroleave, and the additional domestic entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998, would be aligned, given the practical difficulties employers face in treating these entitlements differently, but this has not happened. Or at least not yet.
Family friendly rights
The introduction of new family-friendly legislation continues apace, with unpaid carers leave being introduced in April, together with the special protection afforded to employees who are on maternity leave who find themselves at risk of redundancy being extended from the date the employer is notified of their pregnancy up until 18 months after their child is born. Similar protections will apply in respect of those taking adoption and shared parental leave.
From July onwards, employers will be able to consult directly with their employees about TUPE transfers rather than electing employee representatives, provided they have fewer than 50 employees or if the transfer involves less than 10 employees, regardless of the size of the employer.
Prevention of Sexual Harassment
In October, employers will be under a new duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and run the risk of facing an uplift in compensation where an employment tribunal finds they have breached that duty. As a result, employers should consider rolling out training for their staff on appropriate workplace behaviours.
Other Employment proposals for 2024
- Although a date for implementation has not yet been confirmed, new rules regarding the full and fair allocation and distribution of tips for workers is expected to come into force in May. An accompanying code of practice, which is currently in draft form, is expected to be finalised this spring.
- In May last year the government stated its intention to limit non-compete restrictions in employment contracts to three months’ duration only. No indication has been given as to when this reform might be implemented, but employers may wish to review the duration of their non-compete restrictions in new employment and worker contracts ahead of this change.
- At the end of January, the Ministry of Justice launched a consultation on the re-introduction of employment tribunal fees. Last time employment tribunal fees were introduced. it resulted in a significant drop in the number of tribunal claims, but the regime was successfully challenged in 2017 on access to justice grounds. This time, the proposal is for a far more modest one-off fee of £55 to issue a claim in the employment tribunal, or an appeal in the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
As you can see, there is a lot happening in employment law in 2024 and beyond; and that is even before we consider the impact of the end of the supremacy of EU law on tribunal and court decisions, and the fact that we may have a new government this year.
If you would like to find out more about any of these changes to employment legislation and how they may impact your business, please get in touch.