Employment law is an ever-evolving landscape, and legislation can often be changed to respond to political, social, economic or technical factors. Any adjustments aim to ensure that employers’ and employees’ rights are protected, and that current legislation can continue to be effective and easily adopted in the modern working world.
Over the last few months, many law reforms have been passed through Private Members’ Bills supported by the government. These changes will need to be reflected in HR policies and worker training over the following year.
Given how quickly legislation can be amended, it is important for employers and HR managers to stay up to date with any changes ahead of time, so they can prepare. As 2024 approaches, this article examines some of the important law reforms employers need to know for the new year.
The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 and working time rules
On 1st January 2024, this legislation will amend laws relating to working time, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), and holiday pay.
Rolled up holiday pay will be introduced as an option that workers can take. This is designed to reduce excess administration for companies that have to calculate holiday pay for workers who work irregular hours.
TUPE reforms will enable small businesses (with under 50 employees), that are undertaking a small transfer (of no more than 10 employees), to consult directly with those employees if a worker representative isn’t in place.
Regarding working time, businesses will no longer have to keep records of workers’ daily working hours. They will however still need to provide records that show evidence of complying with the Working Time Regulations, saving businesses administrative time and costs.
From 1st January 2024, The Equality Act 2010 will be updated to provide protection against discrimination, including:
- Direct discrimination relating to pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding
- The definition of disability in relation to employment and occupation
- Indirect discrimination in which a person without a relevant protected characteristic experiences the same disadvantage as those with a protected characteristic
A further amendment will come into force on 26 October 2024 as part of the Worker Protection Act, which will compel employers to take steps to actively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. A finalised statutory code of practice is expected from the EHRC.
It may be beneficial to HR managers and employers to conduct refresher training for HR to ensure that descriptions relating to discrimination are updated, and that diversity and inclusion policies are properly updated.
Reforms will be made in July/August 2024 that will change employees’ right to request flexible work. Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in a 12-month period. (Under current law, they can only make one request).
Employers will have two months to respond (they currently have three months). Employees will also not need to explain any impact on the business that would occur as a result of their request being granted. Employees will be able to make a flexible working request from the first day of employment. Currently, an employee must have worked for the employer for 26 weeks or more to do this.
Employees who act as a carer for a dependant, including a spouse or civil partner, parent, child, a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care, or a person in the same household (excluding tenants, boarders, lodgers or employees), will have the statutory right of one week’s leave guaranteed.
As soon as an employee starts at a company, this right will provide a level of flexibility that is hoped will help reduce stress, improve mental health, and contribute to general well-being.
Hospitality workers often rely on tips to boost their wages. The Employment Act will mean that businesses must pass on tips to staff without making deductions.
There a number of things that businesses must to do comply with this new legislation:
- Tips must be fairly allocated between workers.
- Tips must be paid to workers by the end of the month, following the month in which the tip was left.
- A clearly written tips policy must be put in place.
- Three years of records must be kept, detailing how tips have been handled.
This legislation is designed to enforce protection against redundancy for pregnant workers and parents returning to work after taking leave for family related reasons.
Employees on maternity leave have priority status, in that, in redundancy situations, they are offered suitable alternative employment ahead of staff not on maternity leave. This priority status will likely be extended to cover employees who are pregnant, returning from adoption leave, returning from shared parental leave, or who have recently suffered a miscarriage.
Expected to come into force by October 2024, this Act will grant workers and agency workers the right to request more predictable working hours. ACAS consulting is expected to last until 17 January 2024.
The government is expected to publish guidance on what “reasonable fraud prevention procedures” will look like in 2024. Following this, regulations will be established to bring this Act into force, which will make the failure to prevent fraud an offence.
Fraud policies and staff training will likely require updating to abide by the new regulation. Contracts for both workers and employees might need updating as well, along with whistleblowing procedures.
Should an employee have a baby that requires neonatal care that starts within 28 days of the birth and lasts for a minimum of seven continuous days, this act gives them a “day one” right to take neonatal care leave.
As further regulations are required, this Act is not expected to be brought into force until April 2025 at the earliest.
Further possible UK employment law reforms in 2024
- Greater flexibility for people taking paternity leave, including a reduction of the notice required.
- The removal of regulation 7 of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulation 2003. This regulation currently stops employers from replacing striking employees with agency workers.
- A statutory cap of three months duration put on non-compete restrictive covenants in employee contracts.
- In April 2023, consultation closed on potential legislation on the use of non-disclosure agreements (confidentiality clauses) in employee contracts and settlement agreements.
- Updates to the government’s Disability Action Plan, including:
- A voluntary minimum framework for occupational health provision
- Voluntary health and disability standards for workplaces
- A potential SME group purchasing framework, including a digital marketplace
- Fit note reform
- Potential further support for employers via the tax system
- Possible support for the recruitment and retainment of autistic employees
- The government is researching whistleblowing, although there are no reforms currently being proposed
- Proposals may be made regarding pay transparency after the pilot scheme run in 2022. The scheme required employers to publish salary details in job advertisements and also prevented them from enquiring about candidates salary histories.