Next year is set to see a series of legislative changes that will have big ramifications for workers and HR.
Jane Mann, employment partner at Fox Williams, told People Management: “Employers will need to hit the ground running after the festive season, as 2024 is shaping up to be a busy year for new employment law.”
The changes in policy cover employment rights, flexible working and holiday pay. There will be greater protection from redundancy for employees who are pregnant or coming back from maternity leave, as well as new rights for those who balance work and caring responsibilities.
Mann continued: “A hot topic recently has been the importance of employers’ addressing workplace bullying and harassment, particularly given the legal risks and potential damage to reputation. This will become even more important as the new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment kicks in towards the end of next year.
“If employers want to argue that they’ve taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment, they are going to have to proactively review policies and regularly train staff on the law and their responsibilities.”
Hike in the minimum wage
Chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced in the autumn statement that the national living wage will increase by almost 10 per cent following high inflation and the cost of living crisis.
The change will see it rise from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour from 1 April.
For the first time, the increase will be expanded to cover 21 and 22 year olds and the national minimum wage rates for younger workers will also rise by £1.11 an hour to £8.60 for 18 to 20 year olds.
Pay for those undertaking apprenticeships will also increase, with an 18-year-old apprentice in industries including construction seeing their minimum hourly pay increase from £5.28 to £6.40.
Read more: Autumn statement: five key takeaways for HR
Holiday pay and TUPE changes to come into force as early as 1 January 2024
Holiday pay for part-time and irregular hours workers has been reformed so their entitlement is calculated at 12.07 per cent of hours worked in a pay period.
The decision was made to reform holiday pay for such workers after the Supreme Court’s decision in Harpur Trust v Brazel resulted in part-year workers receiving more holiday entitlement than part-time workers who worked the same number of hours on an annual basis.
The reforms will also see changes to Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) rights, which protect employees and their benefits when their organisation transfers from one employer to another.
The changes look to ease the pressure on small businesses by allowing them to consult with their new employees directly if there are no existing worker representatives in place. Where employee representatives – including trade unions – are in place, employers will be required to consult them.
Miscarriage leave bill
The miscarriage leave bill looks to introduce three days of paid leave for people who have experienced baby loss before 24 weeks as, under current legislation, those going through the loss are not entitled to any paid leave. Only a handful of countries currently have miscarriage leave, including New Zealand, India and the Philippines.
The bill has seen its second reading delayed multiple times. The second reading had been announced to take place on 24 November, but was postponed after parliament did not sit on this day.
Carer’s Leave Act
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 received royal assent in May 2023 and looks to cement the rights of those who balance work with caring responsibilities. It will allow these workers to take at least one week of unpaid carer’s leave per year. This will cover those with an illness or injury that is expected to last more than three months, those with a disability or where care is related to old age. It is expected to come into force in April.
Flexible Working Act
Employees across the UK will be given greater flexibility from next year over where and when they work. Employers will be required to consider any flexible working requests and provide a reason before rejection.
The Act, which received royal assent in July, will cover rights to request flexibility over part time, term time, flexi-time, compressed hours and adjustable start and finish times.
Lawyers at Stephens Scown estimate that employers can expect to see changes from around July 2024.
And of course, there’s nothing like a general election to shake the status quo. After the coalition government introduced fixed-term parliaments in 2011, the government will be required to call a general election next year, which could have a major impact on employment law.
If the Conservative Party stays in power, we can expect it to carry on full steam ahead with its five-point plan to reduce immigration to lessen the UK’s dependence on overseas workers in favour of UK workers. But if the Labour Party were to win in the election, the party has pledged to introduce an employment rights bill, which would put a ban on zero-hours contracts, end fire and rehire practices and strengthen sick pay.