Employment

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2024 promises to be a busy year for employment law. Aside from those changes we have come to expect each year (such as increases to National Minimum Wage), throughout 2024 we’ll see significant reform to the Working Time Regulations, as well as the introduction of a new form of statutory leave and enhanced protections for workers.

Statutory rates of pay

From 1 April 2024 minimum wages will increase as follows:

  • National Living Wage for workers aged 21 and over will increase to £11.44.
  • National Minimum Wage for workers aged 18-20 will increase to £8.60.
  • National Minimum Wage for workers aged 16-17 will increase to £6.40.
  • Apprentice rate will increase to £6.40.

Each of the above rates represents an increase of a little over £1.00 from the current minimum wage rates, whilst this seems small, over the course of the year it can make a significant difference. At the current rate, a minimum annual salary for an employee aged 21 working 40 hours a week would be £21,673.60, from April that minimum will increase to £23,795.20; an extra £2,121.60. Of course, with that raise comes a proportionate increase to employers’ contributions such as pension and NI.

With other costs continuing to rise this may be a concern for some businesses. In some cases costs may be saved by reviewing sickness absence and overtime practices which could reduce or even remove the need for redundancies.

If you are concerned about increases to minimum wage rates or are considering cost cutting measures generally, our HR audit can help identify policies or practices that could help to address this.

From 8 April 2024 statutory rates of pay for all forms of family friendly leave will increase to £184.03 and statutory sick pay will increase to £116.75.

Changes to existing legislation

Working Time Regulations (WTR)

From 1 January 2024 the following changes to the WTR came into effect:

    • Holiday entitlement for part-year workers and individuals working irregular hours (i.e., a zero hours worker) will accrue at a rate of 12.07% of the hours the individual worked in any ‘pay period’ (meaning the time frame between pay dates). This is going back to the way that many of you used to calculate holiday (and maybe still do) so might not be too much of a change.
    • Employers may lawfully pay their part-year and irregular-hour workers ‘rolled-up’ holiday pay. This means employers can pay staff for the holiday they accrue for a pay period in their regular payroll, even if the employee hasn’t in fact taken holiday. This is a common practice within the hospitality sector where workers’ hours are more likely to fluctuate as calculating holiday pay when leave is taken can be more complicated. Rolled-up holiday pay must be calculated with reference to employees’ pay in the relevant pay period taking into account all regular payments, such as commission.
    • There will no longer be a legal right to carry-over holiday if prevented from taking it due to COVID-19 (unless it’s as a result of long-term sick leave). Any carried-over leave still outstanding due to COVID must be taken by 31 March 2024.

Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees Regulations (TUPE)

From 1 July 2024 in a transfer of a business with fewer than 50 workers, or a transfer involving fewer than 10 individuals, both the transferee and transferor will be permitted to consult directly with employees rather than through elected representatives. This change will streamline the TUPE process for small businesses and small transfers allowing for a more proportionate approach to consultation.

Family friendly changes

Changes to the flexible working requests regime

From 6 April 2024, employees won’t need to meet eligibility criteria in order to submit a flexible working request. At present, employees must have been employed for 26 weeks before they can make flexible working requests, from 6 April however this will be a day-one right.

This is in addition to those changes which will come into force under The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, covered in our August 2023 update. We anticipate that these changes are likely to come into force alongside the removal of the eligibility criteria and so updates to your policies are essential.

Changes to Paternity Leave

From 6 April 2024, employees will be able to take Paternity Leave in 2 separate blocks of one week, this is a change from the current position where they must take the weeks consecutively or lose the second week entirely. Employees will also be able to take their paternity leave at any time in the 52 weeks following birth and will only be required to give employers 28 days’ notice of their intention to take leave.

These changes will apply to any employee whose child is expected to born on or after 6 April 2024 and so applies to those individuals who have already given notice to take Paternity Leave.

Introduction of Carer’s Leave

From 6 April 2024 the Carer’s Leave Act will come into effect granting workers who have dependents with long-term care needs 1 week’s unpaid leave in any 12-month period. The leave can be taken in half or full days and can be used in one go or spread throughout the year as may be required.

Enhanced rights for those eligible for maternity or adoption leave

As the law is currently, employees who take maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave have the right to be offered a suitable alternative role in the case of a redundancy situation occurring during their leave. From 6 April 2024, this protection will be increased to 18 months from the expected week of birth for those taking maternity leave, or from the placement in the case of adoption.

Employees taking shared parental leave will be also protected for 18 months from the date of birth provided they have taken at least 6 continuous weeks of shared parental leave.

Workers who suffer a miscarriage before 24 weeks will be protected for a period of 2 weeks from the end of pregnancy. It should be noted that after 24 weeks an individual who suffers a miscarriage is entitled to take maternity leave and therefore protected for the full 18-month period.

Enhanced Protection against sexual harassment at work

In September 2023, we reported that the government were proposing to introduce new legislation which would oblige employers to take more measures to actively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Legislation to this effect will come into force in October 2024 and employers will be required to take reasonable steps to prevent employees from being subject to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. A failure to do so may itself give rise to claims it is therefore vital that employers take steps to train their employees on harassment and set clear expectations in the workplace on an ongoing basis.

We provide can provide training to your staff about harassment in the workplace, you can find out more about the training we offer here. We tailor all our training to provide real-life examples relevant to your sector, however, if you’re interested in more bespoke training for your team, please get in touch.

If you have questions about any of these changes or would like support reviewing your policies please contact our Employment team for support.

(January 2024)