Since the pandemic, changes in employment law have been few and far between but in recent months a number of pieces of new legislation have received Royal Assent and therefore seem likely to come into effect in 2024 once relevant consultation has taken place and employer guidance has been created. Below we take a look at some of the anticipated changes.
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023
Under The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 employees will receive entitlement to one week of unpaid leave per year if they are providing or arranging care for a dependent or relative who has a long term care need. Carers are expected to be able to take the leave flexibly either as full or half days. Although it is as yet unclear, it is anticipated that employees who wish to take this type of leave will be required to give a minimum amount of notice. Employers may in some circumstances be able to postpone requests if there is a specific business need but they will not be able to deny requests out right. Employees will gain the right to carer’s leave from day one of employment and employees who take this leave will be protected from dismissal or any other detriment as a result of taking this time off.
The Neonatal Care (Leave & Pay) Act 2023
Another new act which sits under the banner of family friendly legislation is The Neonatal Care (Leave & Pay) Act 2023. The Act will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of neonatal leave and pay in addition to existing maternity and paternity entitlements. Neonatal leave will be a day one right and the right to receive statutory pay will require 26 weeks of service. These rules will apply to parents of babies who are admitted into hospital up to the age of 28 days, and who have a continuous stay in hospital of 7 full days or more. It is currently undecided if employees will have to provide any specific form of evidence from a medical professional in order to exercise this right.
The Protection From Redundancy (Pregnancy & Family Leave) Act 2023
Under current regulations employers are obliged to offer suitable alternative employment, where a vacancy exists, to a parent who is on maternity leave as soon as their job is at risk of redundancy. This period of protection previously ended once the employee’s maternity leave finished. The Protection From Redundancy (Pregnancy & Family Leave) Act 2023 will extend this period to protect expectant employees from the moment they inform their employer of their pregnancy until 18 months after the birth of their child. Parents who take adoption or shared parental leave will also be protected while on leave and for a period of 18 months after their return.
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023
There are three key changes to current flexible working legislation in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023. Once this legislation has been enacted employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period compared to the current limit of one. In addition, employers will have to respond to flexible working requests within two months, rather than the current three month period. Although not explicitly stated in the bill which created the act, the government has set out that they will make flexible working requests a day one right instead of the current arrangements whereby employees must have been in employment for 26 weeks before being able to make a request.
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions Act 2023)
An interesting and in some quarters controversial new piece of legislation is The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions Act 2023 which will introduce the statutory right for workers to request a more predictable working pattern. The legislation is aimed at workers on zero hours contracts, agency workers and workers on fixed term contracts to enable them to request greater certainty in their hours and/or days of work as well as the duration of their engagement. In a similar vein to flexible working requests, workers will be limited on the number of requests they can make in any 12 month period. Employers will have one month to consider requests and notify the worker of their decision. There will be a set of specified grounds upon which requests may be refused. The act currently lists six reasons although these may change through consultation. If a request is accepted, then the employer must offer the new terms within two weeks. There are concerns from some that this legislation will have a large impact on the retail, care and hospitality sectors and could effect their ability to recruit.
The Pensions (Extension Of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023
The Pensions (Extension Of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023 will change two areas of current legislation in terms of eligibility criteria. The current lower earnings limit of £6,240 will be scrapped under this new act and the age at which eligible employees will be automatically enrolled into their workplace pension scheme will drop from 22 to 18 years of age. The aim of these changes is to help people on a low income and young workers to start saving into a pension scheme sooner.
Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball it is fairly safe to say that in addition to the above changes there will be more to come in 2024.
There will be significant uplifts to the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates in April 2024 and the age bracket for the National Living Wage will widen to include workers aged 21 and over. As well as those changes, the annual increases in various statutory payment rates will no doubt also be made next spring and it is important to keep an eye on these changes to ensure that you pay staff accordingly.
Following a period of consultation, the government also recently announced draft legislation which will impact on the calculation of holiday pay entitlement for part time and irregular hours workers and which will also permit rolled up holiday pay for some workers. Full details and guidance will be published in due course
Other changes to employment law may also come about in 2024 but the timing of the expected general election is likely to play a role in what those changes are and when and if they actually take place.
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