Legal Updates for Employment – 2024

A brief summary highlighting important legislation changes that are coming into effect this year, relative to the employment industry, together with a round-up of legislation which is in the pipeline, but has not yet been finalised. We hope you find it helpful.

1. Expanded Right to Request Flexible Working

At present, all employees can apply for flexible working if they have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks or longer, taking the following steps:

  • The employee writes to the employer.
  • The employer considers the request and makes a decision within three months.
  • If the employer agrees to the request, terms and conditions must be changed in the employee’s contract.
  • If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee, giving business reasons for the disapproval.  The employee may be able to complain via a tribunal.

 

From 1st April 2024, the regulations amending the Flexible Working Act 2014 will take effect with the following steps and changes:

  • Employees have the right to request flexible working from day one of employment.
  • An employee can make two statutory flexible working requests within a 12-month period (previously it was one).
  • The employee writes to the employer.
  • The employer considers the request and makes a decision with two months (previously it was three months).
  • If the employer agrees to the requests, written confirmation must be provided to the employee.
  • If the employer disagrees, they must write to the employee, giving business reasons for the disapproval.  The employee may be able to complain via a tribunal.

 

ACAS launched a consultation on 21 October 2023 on a draft statutory code which will provide guidance on how to handle requests from workers.  Click here: Code of Practice

The above changes do not apply to agency staff as they are classed as ‘an individual who is supplied by a person to work for another under a contract or other arrangement.’  This means that an employed agency worker who is supplied by Signature to work for our clients does not have the right to make a flexible working request, unless they are returning from a period of parental leave.

2. Holiday Pay

Holiday pay for part-year and irregular workers is now based on the 12.07% calculation method.  The law came into effect from 1 January 2024, but only affects workers whose holiday year starts on or after 1 April 2024.  

How workers are classified will depend on the precise nature of their working arrangements, with employers encouraged to ensure that working patterns are clear in workers’ contracts.

For workers who are not irregular hours or part-year workers, i.e. agency staff, there is no change in how their statutory holiday entitlement is accrued.  Visit Holiday Pay & Entitlement Reforms 2024 for full details.

3. Carryover of Leave

If a worker is unable to take some or all of their statutory holiday entitlement as a result of taking a period of maternity or other family-related leave, then they will be entitled to carry forward up to 28 days of their untaken leave into the following leave year.

If a worker working regular hours all year round is unable to take some or all of their statutory holiday entitlement as a result of being off sick, then they will be entitled to carry forward up to 20 days of their untaken leave into the following leave year, provided it is taken by the end of the period of 18 months, starting from the end of the leave year in which it was accrued.

A worker will be entitled to carryover leave if an employer has refused to pay them their leave entitlement; if they have not been given an opportunity to take leave or been encouraged to do so, or if the employer has failed to inform the worker that untaken leave must be used before the end of the leave year, to prevent it from being lost.  

The emergency provisions enacted in 2020 providing workers the right to carryover leave for
reasons related to COVID-19 has now been revoked.

4. Redundancy (Pregnancy & Family Leave) Act

Currently an employee at risk of redundancy who is on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave has the right to be offered any suitable alternative employment vacancy available.  This protection currently ends on the employee’s return to work. The finer details are yet to be announced but the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will come into force on 6th April 2024 and will extend this protection as follows:

  • Pregnancy/maternity: from the point the employer is informed of the pregnancy and 18 months after the expected week of birth or the exact date of the birth.
  • Adoption: the protected period includes 18 months from placement for adoption.
  • Shared Parental Leave: the protected period is for the period of 18 months from birth where 6 consecutive weeks of shared parental leave has been taken.

5. Carer's Leave Act

Taking effect from 6th April 2024 – employees will be entitled to up to 5 days unpaid leave in a 12-month period to provide or arrange care for a dependant with long-term care needs.  This is a right of entitlement from day one of employment. The definition of long-term care is: illness or injury requiring care for more than three months, disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 or care for a reason connected with old age.

6. Changes to wage rates in 2024

As a Recognised Service Provider of the Real Living Wage we support the wage that is published by the Living Wage Foundation. For those of you who also champion the Real Living Wage, the latest rates announced in September 2023 will need to be implemented by latest 1st May 2024.  These are £12.00 across the UK and £13.15 in London.

With effect from 1st April 2024, the National Minimum Wage will rise from £10.42 to £11.44 an hour for workers aged 21 years and over.  See the full rate increases for all other categories below.

7. Right to Work Checks

Taking effect from October 2023, this update removes the requirement for employers to verify a digital Certificate of Application (CoA) with the Home Office Employer Checking Service (ECS) for outstanding EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) applications made on or after 1 July 2021. The online right to work checking service will also not direct employers to verify a digital CoA with the ECS.

A draft Code of Practice for the ‘Right to Work’ Scheme has been launched by the Home Office to come into force from 22nd January 2024.  This sets out the prescribed checks and information that must be retained by employers to obtain a statutory excuse against liability for a civil
penalty and how the Home Office determines the value of the civil penalty in cases where
illegal working is identified.  Click here for the Draft Code of Practice.

8. Illegal Employment

The Immigration Order has been amended to increase the maximum civil penalty for the illegal employment of adults subject to immigration control from £20,000 to £60,000, to take effect from 1st January 2024.

9. Equality Act

The Government has published draft legislation to take effect from 1st January 2024, amending the Equality Act 2010. The Regulations codify certain EU-derived discrimination protections that would otherwise have disappeared at the end of this year due to Brexit.  These amendments include:

  • Guidance on the definition of disability to state that consideration of a person’s ability to participate fully and effectively in working life on an equal basis with other workers is relevant when looking at ‘day-to-day activities’.
  • A ‘single source’ test for establishing an equal pay comparator
  • An extension of direct discrimination protection to cover discriminatory statements made about not wanting to recruit people with certain protected characteristics even where there is no active recruitment process ongoing and no identifiable victim.
  • Confirmation that employment discrimination on grounds of breastfeeding falls under the protected characteristic of sex.

10. Worker Protection

Legislation from 1st October 2024; the Worker Protection Act places a statutory duty
on all employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sex harassment in the workplace. If employers fail to take reasonable steps to prevent sex harassment against workers in the course of their employment, then the Equality and Human Rights Commission can take enforcement steps. Additionally, any successful tribunal claim will be subject to a compensation uplift of up to
25%.

11. Decrease in NI Contributions

Employees being paid via PAYE are seeing a two percent cut in National Insurance Contributions starting from 6th January 2024.  The main rate of Class 1 NIC’s has fallen from 12 percent to 10 percent.

12. Pensions

The Extension of Automatic Enrolment Act introduces powers to reduce the age of automatic
enrolment and remove the lower earnings limits, and seeks to abolish the lower earnings
limit for contributions (which is currently £6,240 per annum) and reduce the age for being
automatically enrolled into a pension scheme from 22 years to 18 years old.  No date has been set yet, but the Department of Work and Pensions will be launching a consultation on implementation in due course.

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