It’s been a few years of relative quiet on the employment law changes front. 2024 looks set to change that with a few big changes employers need to be aware of.
Flexible Working - a day 1 right
With effect from 6th April 2024, employees will no longer need to have 26 weeks service to make a flexible working request.
This means that from 6th April 2024, employees will be able to make a flexible working request from day 1 of employment.
Protection from Redundancy: Pregnancy and Family Leave
The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 extend the period of special protection from redundancy for employees who are on maternity leave, adoption leave or those on shared parental leave.
Currently, parents on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave should be offered first refusal of any suitable alternative employment which may be available in a redundancy situation.
It is expected that, with effect from 6th April 2024, the following protections will apply:
- For maternity – the protected period will cover pregnancy, followed by the 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth. The protected period can be changed to cover 18 months from the exact date of birth, if the employee gives the employer notice of this date prior to the end of maternity leave.
- For adoption – the protected period will cover 18 months from placement for adoption.
- For shared parental leave – the protected period will cover 18 months from birth, provided that the parent has taken a period of at least 6 consecutive weeks of shared parental leave. This protection will not apply if the employee is otherwise protected under the maternity or adoption protections.
The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 are due to come into force on 6th April 2024 giving employees up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave in any 12 month period.
What this means:
- the right is a Day One right
- the right applies to employees who have a dependant with a long-term care need and those who want to be absent from work to provide, or arrange care for that dependant
- requests can be in consecutive, or non-consecutive, half-days or full days
- employees must give notice, in writing, of their intention to take carer’s leave – confirming their entitlement to take it and giving at least twice the amount of notice than the period of leave requested. Or, if longer, three days’ notice.
As an employer you can postpone a request if the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted. In these circumstances, you must give notice of the postponement before the leave was due to begin, and must explain why the postponement is necessary. You must then allow the leave to be taken within one month of the start-date of the leave originally requested. Rescheduling the leave should be done in consultation with the employee.
Employees are protected from detriment and dismissal because they take, or seek to take, carer’s leave (or the employer believes they are likely to do so).
Changes to Paternity Leave coming into force in April 2024 will mean that whilst employees remain entitled to only two weeks they will be able to split the leave and take each week at seperate times.
The period during which the leave can be taken will also be extended to 12 months following the birth and only 21 days notice of the period of leave will be required.
Rolled Up Holiday Pay
Holiday pay has felt like an ever changing landscape for many years now with the most recent case in 2022 Harper Trust v Brazel causing another significant change to our understanding of calculating holiday pay.
As a result, legislation comes into force in 2024 which should help make things a little easier for employers. The key changes are:
- Rolled-up holiday pay will be allowed for part year workers and where hours are mostly or wholly variable.
- Employers will be able to choose between an annual leave accrual method of 12.07% of hours worked for irregular hours and part-year workers or the current 52 week average.
- There will be a clearer definition of what is to be included in “normal remuneration” for the purposes of calculating holiday pay for Working Time Directive holiday entitlement.
- EU case law permitting carry-over of annual leave where the worker has been on maternity/family-related leave or sick leave will be restated in UK law (this doesn’t change anything, just ensures the current situation continues following Brexit).
- Express carry-forward provisions will be introduced to cover situations such as where an employer fails to give a worker a reasonable opportunity to take holiday in a leave year.
Changes to holiday pay calculations will be effective from the holiday year starting after April 2024 and may amount to a contractual change. It is therefore worth planning for this now.
Duty to Prevent Sexual Harassment
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) is expected to come into force before the end of 2024, putting a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of of their employees.
The aim of this legislation is to shift culture to a focus on prevention, requiring employers to take a proactive approach to tackling toxic environments.
If it is found there has been a failure to take reasonable steps the Equality and Human Rights Commission may take action against the employer. In addition, where an individual makes a claim to the employment tribunal there may be a 25% uplift in sexual harassment compensation where the employer is found to have breached the new duty to prevent sexual harassment.
Whilst we’re still waiting for the Equality and Human Rights Commission to publish a statutory code of practice, it is likely that ensuring the relevant policies are in place and regular training will substantially help to demonstrate compliance.
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Article last updated: 20 February 2024
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