Looking ahead to 2024: new employment laws

Eleanor Parkes summarises some of the key legislation set to be introduced in the next year

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Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 

Employees will receive a day-one right to 12 weeks of leave if their child is receiving neonatal care. However, the right to receive neonatal care pay will require a minimum of 26 weeks’ service. Leave does not need to be taken in one block and can be taken in individual days or half days. Neonatal care must have started within 28 days of birth and last for at least seven days. The leave must be taken within 68 weeks of the child’s birth. 

Carer’s Leave Act

This Act – which comes into force on 6 April – allows carers to take one week’s unpaid leave in any 12-month period to look after a dependant with a long-term care need, such as illness, injury, disability or old age. Leave can also be taken in individual days or half days.

Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 

This Act comes into force next year and will ensure that all tips and service charges are allocated fairly between its workers (not just employees). Employers will also have to have a written policy on how it deals with tips and keep records of all tips and service charges received for three years. 

Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 

Currently, protection is given to employees on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave, in that they have a right to be offered a suitable alternative role, if one is available, before they are made redundant and must be preferred for the role, all other things remaining equal. This new Act – due to be implemented on 6 April – will extend this protection to pregnant employees and employees recently returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act

This Act – which is expected to come into force in around September 2024 – introduces a new statutory right for workers (including agency and zero-hours workers) and employees to request a more predictable working pattern. 

Also covered are those on a fixed-term contract of 12 months or less, as long as they have worked at the employer for at least 26 weeks. However, given the aim of the legislation is to address the issue of ‘one-sided flexibility’ experienced by workers in the gig economy, workers may not have had to have worked continuously during that 26-week period. 

Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 

This Act – set to come fully into force on 6 April – will improve current flexible working rights, allowing employees to make two formal flexible working requests in a 12-month period.

The right to make a flexible working application also becomes a day one right on 6 April 2024 – until then employees will need 26 weeks’ continuous employment to make a request. 

Employers will need to consult with employees before rejecting any such applications and will have only two months to consider and decide the outcome. The eight statutory grounds for rejecting a flexible working request remain unchanged.

Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2020) Act 

Finally, legislation on the duty to prevent sexual harassment is expected to be in place from October 2024. Under the new law, all employers will be under a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to stop sexual harassment happening in the workplace. If reasonable steps have not been taken to prevent sexual harassment and an employee is sexually harassed and successfully brings a claim, then the Equality and Human Rights Commission can take enforcement steps, plus any successful tribunal claim will be subject to a compensation uplift of up to 25 per cent.

Business owners and HR managers need to keep on top of new legislation and should consider the implications and practicalities of these changes for their organisation sooner rather than later. This is not only to reduce legal risk, but also to ensure employees and workers can benefit from any new entitlements, which will help foster a workplace culture that promotes fairness and wellbeing.  

Eleanor Parkes is a solicitor in the employment team at Debenhams Ottaway