Employment law update: what actions do employers need to take?

read time: 7 mins

Following the end of the 2023/24 tax year, there have been a swathe of changes to employment law that will affect all UK employers, with a number of further changes to follow. 
This guide highlights these changes and what action employers may need to take as a result.

Increase to national minimum wage 

What is changing?

What do employers need to do? 

Employers should conduct a review of all employee salaries to ensure they are being paid in accordance with the new minimum wage rates. This will inevitably have a knock on effect on other salaries on employers’ pay scales, which will also require review.

Changes to holiday entitlement  

What is changing? 

New rules on calculating holiday entitlement for part-year or irregular hours workers were introduced on 1 April 2024. For leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, holiday entitlement for irregular hours and part-year workers will be calculated in hours, not weeks. Holiday entitlement will accrue at a rate of 12.07% of the hours worked during that pay period based on the statutory minimum holiday entitlement, which is 5.6 weeks. 

What do employers need to do? 

They should consider whether any of their workers fall into the category of either ‘irregular hours’ or ‘part-year’ workers. If so, a decision will need to be taken as to how they are renumerated for accrued holiday. 

Employers should also ensure that they have systems and documents in place that communicate to their employees their right to take holiday, encourage employees to access the same throughout the year and explain that holiday will be lost if not taken. 

Further information in relation to the changes in holiday pay can be found here.

Carer’s leave 

What is changing? 

As of 6 April 2024, employees will have the ‘day one’ right to take up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave every 12 months to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long term care need. Employers will not be able to refuse leave, but will be able to postpone it by up to one month if there is a reasonable belief that allowing the leave as requested would disrupt its business operations. Employers are also not allowed to request proof of why the leave is required.

What do employers need to do? 

Employers should review their existing family friendly policies and consider making additions to cover the newly introduced right to carer’s leave.

Paternity leave 

What is changing? 

As of 6 April 2024, employees can now choose to take either one or two weeks’ statutory paternity leave as either two consecutive weeks, or two separate blocks of one week. Previously, paternity leave had to be taken in one continuous block. The paternity leave must be taken within 52 weeks of the birth date.

What do employers need to do? 

Employers should review their paternity leave policies to make it clear that employees can now split their paternity leave into two separate blocks of one week. Consideration should also be given as to how this would interact with any enhanced paternity leave that might be offered. 

Protection from redundancy for those on family leave 

What is changing? 

Under existing legislation, employees on maternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave should be given priority over other employees in being offered suitable alternative roles when their existing role is being made redundant. As of 6 April 2024, these protections are being extended as follows:

  • Pregnant employees will now have this protection from the date they notify their employer of the pregnancy until 18 months after the birth.
  • Employees who have taken adoption leave will be protected for 18 months from the date of placement.
  • Employees taking less than six weeks shared parental leave will have protection during their period of leave.
  • Employees taking more than six continuous weeks shared parental leave will have protection for 18 months after birth.

What do employers need to do? 

Unless employers have a redundancy policy which requires updating, no immediate action is required. However, when embarking on a redundancy process, employers should make sure that managers and HR are fully aware of the enhanced protection for individuals on any type of family leave that may be at risk in that process.

Amendments to flexible working rules 

What is changing? 

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, which came into force on 6 April 2024, remove the requirement for employees to be employed for at least 26 weeks before making a flexible working request. It will now be a day one right. 

Employees will now also be permitted to make two flexible working requests per year, rather than the one they were previously allowed. 

Prior to 6 April 2024, employers had three months to respond to a flexible working request, but this has now been reduced to two months and employers will not be able to outright refuse a request without first consulting with the employee. 

In conjunction with these changes the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has produced a new code of practice which sets out best practice for how employers should deal with flexible working requests. Although it is not mandatory, an employment tribunal is likely to use it as a standard which they expect to see employers follow.

What do employers need to do? 

Flexible working requests have become more prevalent since the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a real shift in attitudes to hybrid working and work/life balance. Employers will need to review their existing policies on flexible working requests to ensure they are compliant with the new legislation.

Predictable working patterns 

What is changing? 

From October 2024, The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will give workers the statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern where their working pattern is unpredictable. 

Similarly to a flexible working request, workers will be entitled to make two requests within any 12 month period.

Employers will also be required to consult with employees before rejecting such requests.

What do employers need to do? 

Not all employers will be affected by these changes, particularly where they only have employees working traditional 9 – 5 jobs or similar. But for those employers who have a number of shift workers, zero hours workers, or workers that have opted out from the maximum working time regulations, they should look to introduce internal guidance on how they will deal with any request for a predictable working pattern. This could be along the lines of any existing policy that deals with flexible working requests. 

Sexual harassment

What is changing? 

From October 2024, The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) will introduce a new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment of their employees in the workplace. 

The Act will also give the tribunal powers to uplift any compensatory award made by up to 25%, where the employer has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.

What do employers need to do? 

‘Reasonable steps’ is relatively open to interpretation, and what is deemed reasonable will to some extent depend on the resources available to the employer. At a minimum, the expectation will be that employers have sufficient policies in place that set out their expectations for conduct in the work place, how they will manage harassment and bullying complaints, what the reporting procedures are and their policies on whistleblowing. These policies can also be compounded by delivering training to all of its employees about the harassment in the workplace.

Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill 

What is changing? 

New legislation, which is expected to come into effect in April 2025, will allow employees to take up to 12 weeks’ paid leave to spend more time with their baby (28 days old or younger) if it is receiving neonatal care in hospital or another agreed setting for seven or more continuous days. This will be introduced as a day one right. 

There will also be additional statutory neonatal care pay introduced for employees who meet minimum length of service and earnings criteria. This is expected to mirror the requirements for other forms of statutory pay, such as maternity and paternity.

What do employers need to do? 

There is still sufficient time before these provisions come into force, but employers should still ensure that they update their family leave policies to add details of the new right to neonatal care leave and pay, particularly if they are intending to offer any enhanced pay, leave or benefits. 

How can Ashfords help?

If you are an employer that is concerned about or interested in the recent or impending changes, and thinks it’s time to review and update your internal policies, procedures or staff handbook, please contact our employment law team.

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