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Upcoming UK employment law changes in 2024 and 2025

Employment Law, Law Updates

As we step into the new year, 2024 is bringing in a wave of changes in UK employment law. It can be difficult to keep track of planned changes, so we have rounded up the major ones below for both employers and employees.

Flexible working rights

One of the most significant changes to the Flexible Working Regulations in 2024 is the expansion of flexible working rights. The traditional 9-to-5 workday is becoming a relic of the past as employees seek a better work-life balance. The new regulations will give employees the right to request flexible working arrangements, such as remote work or altered working hours, regardless of their length of service (so it will become a day one right).

As well as this, further changes to flexible working are on the horizon. The changes include:

  • Employees will now be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
  • Requests must be dealt with by employers within two months of receipt of a request if no extension is agreed.
  • Employers are not able to refuse a request until they have ‘consulted’ with the employee (although there is no legislative requirement of what that ‘consultation’ needs to include).
  • Employees will no longer, in their application, have to explain what effect they think agreeing to the request would have—although we would always recommend this to pre-empt any refusal!

These changes are likely to come into effect in April 2024 and aim to strike a balance between business needs and employee wellbeing.

Minimum wage

The National Minimum Wage is going up in 2024 with the largest ever increase in cash terms. This change aims to address issues related to income inequality and improve the standard of living for low-wage workers.

As of 1 April 2024, the National Minimum Wage will increase to:

  • 21 and over: £11.44 (from £10.42). The age has also been reduced to 21 years (rather than the previous 23 years) old and over.
  • 18 to 20: £8.60 (from £7.49).
  • Under 18: £6.40 (from £5.28).
  • Apprentice: £6.40 (from £5.28).

Employers should stay informed about the updated rates to ensure compliance and fair compensation for their workers. For some further advice on this, see our blog post on statutory payments and the National Minimum Wage Increase. (please note: the rates contained within this blog post are the current ones from 2023, and not the increased rates being implemented in 2024).

Zero hours and agency workers

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act is expected to come into force in September 2024 and will give zero-hour/casual and agency workers a new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern.

In practice, if a worker’s existing pattern lacks certainty in hours, or if they’re on a fixed-term contract for less than 12 months, they can make a formal application to request a change to their working pattern to one that is more predictable. An employer then has one month to make a decision and can refuse for one of six statutory grounds.

The gig economy has grown substantially in recent years, bringing attention to the rights and protections afforded to workers in non-traditional employment arrangements. New UK employment law legislation in 2024 seeks to provide enhanced protections for these types of workers, including access to benefits, job security, and clearer employment status definitions. This shift is a response to the changing nature of work and aims to address concerns about exploitation and unfair treatment within this sector.

See our blog post on what the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act means for zero-hours contracts for more information.

Gender Pay Gap reporting

The fight for gender equality continues with enhanced measures to address the Gender Pay Gap. Where they have more than 250 employees, companies will be required to provide more detailed information on pay disparities between employees. The main things an employer needs to submit are:

  • Gender Pay Gap figures; and
  • A written statement—most public authority employers do not need to do this.

Employers can also choose to publish:

  • A supporting narrative; and
  • An action plan.

This transparency is aimed at encouraging businesses to take meaningful steps to close the Gender Pay Gap and promote equal opportunities for all. For more information about this, see our blog post analysing the differences between equal pay and the Gender Pay Gap.

The deadline for public-sector organisations is 31 March 2024 and 5 April 2024 for private companies and charities.

Sexual harassment

Harassment related to a particular protected characteristic is a form of discrimination. Sexual harassment is a slightly different type of harassment. This is best explained in our blog post on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Under the Equality Act 2010, sexual harassment occurs if “A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature”, which “has the purpose or effect of violating B’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B”.

Individuals can be held liable for sexual harassment and can be ordered to pay compensation. It is also worth noting that employers can be held vicariously liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by its employees. Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that holds employers responsible for the wrongful actions of their employees if those actions occur within the course of employment. Essentially, discriminatory acts done by an employee in the course of employment are treated as having been done by the employer and, therefore, the company can be made to pay compensation, in addition to the perpetrator.

Under the new law, which is due to come into play this year, employers now have a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, which arguably improves safeguarding measures and protection for employees, helping to improve workplace cultures.

The effect of any breach of these new statutory duties allows the claimant a 25% uplift in compensation when a claim is brought in the Employment Tribunal.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is in the process of creating a Code of Practice. Once this is released, we will share it along with our thoughts on what this means for you.

Holiday Pay and entitlement

From 1 January 2024, new changes are being introduced to the Working Time Regulations. The government posted guidance on these changes, which are as follows:

  • Defining irregular hours workers and part-year workers—this will depend on the “precise nature of their working arrangements”.
  • Introducing a method to calculate statutory holiday entitlement for irregular hours and part-year workers—for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024.
  • Introducing a method to work out how much leave an irregular hour or part-year worker has accrued when they take maternity or family-related leave or are off sick—for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024.
  • Removing the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which affect the accrual of COVID-19 carryover of leavefrom 1 January 2024, workers can no longer accrue COVID-19 carryover leave. Workers will still be able to use the leave they accrued prior to 1 January 2024 before or on 31 March 2024.
  • Maintaining the current rates of holiday pay where four weeks is paid at normal rate of pay and 1.6 weeks paid at basic rate of pay, while retaining the two distinct pots of leave—for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, part-year and irregular hours workers are entitled to the statutory 5.6 weeks’ entitlement calculated according to actual hours worked using the 12.07% accrual method.
  • Defining what is considered ‘normal remuneration’ in relation to the four weeks of statutory annual leaveFrom 1 January 2024, the components that must be included when calculating ‘normal’ rate of pay are:
    • Payments, including commission payments, intrinsically linked to the performance of tasks which a worker is contractually obliged to carry out.
    • Payments relating to professional or personal status relating to length of service, seniority or professional qualifications.
    • Other payments, such as overtime payments, which have been regularly paid to a worker in the 52 weeks preceding the calculation date.
  • Introducing rolled-up holiday pay—for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, the regulations allow employers to use rolled-up holiday pay as an additional method for calculating holiday pay for irregular hour and part-year workers only.

You can view the full government guidance here.

Family-friendly changes

These new introductions to UK employment law may affect you if you are pregnant or have a new baby, or if you employ someone who fits into this category.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 is expected to come into force on 6 April 2024 and enhances protection for those on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. Currently, those on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave have the right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (where one is available) before they are made redundant, essentially giving them priority over any other employees at risk of redundancy.

The new regulations extend the length of protection/priority given, to include pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, as follows:

  • Pregnant employees from the point that they notify the employer of their pregnancy.
  • Employees returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave:
    • Returning from maternity leave: for 18 months from the child’s date of birth (or from the expected week of childbirth if the employer is not notified of the date of birth before the end of maternity leave).
    • Returning from adoption leave: for 18 months from date of placement (or fate of entry into Great Britain in the case of overseas adoption).
    • Returning from shared parental leave: as above if they have also taken maternity or adoption leave. If not:
      •  At the end of the shared parental leave (if less than six weeks is taken); or
      • 18 months from the child’s date of birth (if more than six continuous weeks is taken).
  • Employees the right to claim automatic unfair dismissal claim where an employer fails to comply with its obligations regarding offering suitable alternative vacancies and the employee is dismissed as a result.

The regulations also provide protection to employees who have suffered a miscarriage before 24 weeks. Their length of protection will be from when they notify their employer of their pregnancy until two weeks after the end of the pregnancy.

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 is also expected to come into force on 6 April 2024 and allows employees to take one week of unpaid leave to care for a dependent with long-term needs, per holiday year. “Long term needs” is defined as:

  • Anyone with a condition that meets the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010;
  • Illness or injury (physical or mental) that requires or is likely to require care for more than three months; or
  • Old age.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 is expected to come into force in April 2025 and means that parents who have babies in neo-natal care within their first 28 days of their life (for seven continuous days or more) are allowed to take neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks. This will be a day one right.

For more information on the current types of leave that are a statutory entitlement, and some which employers should consider as good practice, see our blog post on the types of leave available and how and when they might best be utilised.

Proposed amendments to the Equality Act 2010 will potentially happen but have not yet been confirmed as they are currently draft legislation. The Equality Act Amendment Regulations 2023 codify certain EU-derived discrimination protections, which would otherwise have disappeared at the end of this year due to Brexit. ​The changes include:

  • Direct discrimination—the protection will 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.
  • Indirect discrimination by association—to cover a person who does not hold the relevant protected characteristic but suffers the same disadvantage at the hands of the employer’s PCP as those who do have that characteristic.
  • Disability definition—includes the consideration of a person’s ability to participate fully and effectively at work on an equal basis with other workers when looking at day-to-day activities.
  • Sex discrimination—confirmation that employment discrimination on grounds of breastfeeding falls under the protected characteristic of sex​.
  • Equal pay—introducing the idea that an equal pay comparator can potentially work for a different business, so long as the body responsible for setting their terms is the same.

Since we published this blog post, the government has issued a legislative draft of the Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024. The main changes which will come into effect from 6 April 2024 are:

  • More flexibility—employees will have the flexibility to take the two-week paternity leave as two separate one-week intervals, rather than having to take it as a single block or as consecutive weeks.
  • Extended period—employees can take paternity leave at any point within the first year (ie, 52 weeks) after the child’s birth or adoption of their child, as opposed to the previous limit of eight weeks after the child’s birth.
  • Notification period—employees only need to give 28 days’ (four weeks) written notice of their intention to take paternity leave rather than 15 weeks from the expected week of childbirth.

The new Regulations will come into force in March 2024—but—only apply to parents of children who are born (or adopted) on or after 6 April 2024.

Key takeaways from upcoming changes to UK employment law

As 2024 unfolds, staying informed about these upcoming changes to UK employment law is crucial for both employers and employees. It’s important to remember that while adapting to these changes will ensure legal compliance, embracing them will contribute to creating a positive and inclusive workplace.

Both employees and employers can get in touch with us via enquiries@thrivelaw.co.uk to find out more about these changes.

Or you can find out more about our employment law services for individuals or outsourced employment law and HR support services for businesses elsewhere on our website.

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    Disclaimer

    Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at which the date it was published. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any actions. Please contact us if you have any questions on enquiries@thrivelaw.co.uk.

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