What’s in Store for UK Employers in 2024?
Last year saw a wave of new laws receiving Royal Assent in the UK, and 2024 is the year when these changes are set to hit employers. These transformations have their roots in the 2018 Good Work Plan, heralded as the ‘biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years’ and post-Brexit adjustments.
Let’s dive into the specifics of the major changes you need to prepare for:
In 2023, numerous legal changes were debated in Parliament, but most didn’t take effect; the majority are expected to roll out in 2024. However, we’re still awaiting detailed regulations and the precise enforcement dates.
Carer’s Leave (expected in April 2024)
From day one of employment, employees will have the entitlement to take unpaid time off work to provide or arrange care for a dependent with long-term care needs. Eligible employees can expect at least a week’s leave within any 12-month period.
Equality Act Amendments
As the requirement for UK employment judges to align with EU case law ended in late 2023, the Equality Act 2010 will incorporate eight principles into UK law, ensuring they are retained.
These principles address issues such as discrimination in employment access, pregnancy-related discrimination, indirect discrimination by association, disability definitions, and equal pay.
The net effect here is ‘no change’ as the amendments purely ensure we keep the same protections we’ve had previously.
Flexible Working (effective from 6th April 2024)
A significant shift is coming in the flexible working landscape. Employees can now request flexible working from their first day of employment, eliminating the previous 26-week service requirement.
Moreover, employees will be able to make two requests in any 12-month period, with a shorter two-month decision-making window for employers. Notably, employees will no longer need to explain the impact of their requested change on the employer.
From Spring 2024, the UK government will implement changes aimed at reducing net migration.
These changes include raising the minimum salary for a skilled worker visa from £26,200 to £38,700, except for health and social care visas.
Modifications to the Shortage Occupation List and a prohibition on health and care workers bringing dependants into the UK are also on the horizon.
Additionally, the annual Immigration Health Surcharge is set to increase from £624 to £1035, effective from 16th January 2024. A civil penalty for employers who unlawfully employ foreign workers is also expected to rise, subject to parliamentary approval, effective from 22nd January 2024.
Holidays and Pay
Confirmed by Parliament on 11th December 2023, changes to holidays and pay are coming into effect as planned. The rules concerning the carryover of leave have been legislated, allowing workers to carry forward:
- Their entire 5.6 weeks’ statutory annual leave entitlement into the next holiday year if they couldn’t use it due to family-related statutory leave, including maternity leave.
- Their four weeks’ EU-based annual leave entitlement into the next year if they couldn’t use it due to sick leave. As before, this must be utilized within 18 months of the end of the holiday year in which it originally arose.
Emergency Covid-19 Rules
The emergency rules that permitted workers to carry over four weeks of leave into the following two leave years due to Covid-19 impracticality will be revoked from 1st January 2024.
The standard carryover rules will be reinstated, allowing a maximum of 1.6 weeks to be carried over to the next leave year, with mutual agreement. Any accrued leave carried over under the emergency Covid-19 rules must be taken by 31st March 2024 and cannot be paid instead, except upon termination of employment.
Irregular Hours and Part-year Workers (effective 1st April 2024)
For leave years starting on or after 1st April 2024, new rules will govern annual leave entitlement calculation for irregular hours and part-year workers. Employers will have two payment options: one based on 12.07% of hours worked in the pay period, with holiday pay paid when leave is taken, or another involving a 12.07% payment on top of hourly pay in every pay packet.
More Predictable Working Patterns (expected in September 2024)
Certain workers, including agency workers, will have the right to request a more predictable work pattern. It’s anticipated that workers will need 26 weeks’ service to make such requests. Requests should be accepted unless statutory grounds apply, similar to the existing framework for flexible working requests.
Neonatal Care Leave and Pay (Likely before April 2025)
Employees will gain a new right to take time off work, paid from day one of employment, when a baby they have responsibility for is hospitalized for neonatal care. The leave duration will match the child’s care period, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. If an employee is already on statutory family-friendly leave, neonatal leave will be added to the end of that leave.
Pensions (Consultation pending)
The age at which eligible workers must be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme by their employers may be lowered from 22 to 18 years old. A consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will gather views on implementing these changes.
Redundancy (effective 6th April 2024)
Pregnant employees and those returning from maternity, adoption, and shared parental leave until 18 months after childbirth will receive enhanced protection during redundancy processes.
This protection will apply if the employee notifies their employer on or after 6th April 2024 of their pregnancy and lasts until 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or the exact date of birth if specified to the employer.
Sexual Harassment (late October 2024)
A proactive duty will be placed on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees. Employers will need to demonstrate these steps, and employees can make referrals to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) at any point if they believe their employer isn’t taking reasonable measures.
The new law doesn’t require a harassment complaint to be made before an EHRC referral, and employment tribunals can increase harassment compensation by up to 25% for breaches of this duty.
Tips (expected from April 2024)
The hospitality, leisure, and service sectors should take note. Once it takes effect, employers won’t be able to retain any tips and must establish a written policy for fair tip allocation. While there’s no confirmed implementation date yet, it’s anticipated to come into effect from April 2024.
A draft code of practice on fair tip allocation is currently undergoing public consultation to support employers adhering to this Act.
TUPE Reform (from July 2024)
TUPE will undergo reforms to simplify consultations in small businesses and small transfers, emphasizing direct engagement with employees. The reform applies when there are no existing worker representatives in place.
‘Fire and Rehire’ (late 2024)
The draft Statutory Code of Practice on “fire and rehire” practices, and the final version of the Code, will be published in Spring 2024, introducing more rules on the process used by employers to enforce changes to employee terms and conditions.
There’s a lot there, so, as always, our recommendation would be to find yourself a reliable, well informed HR advisor, and one that will provide you with pragmatic advice that takes account of your business circumstances. They’ll need to work with you to ensure that your contacts and policies are clear and up to date. It may feel like an unnecessary cost, but they’ll stop you hitting problems with HR, which can be expensive, and will be in your corner.
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