Several major changes in Employment Law have been announced recently, and there are many more in the pipeline expected throughout 2024.
Keeping up to date with legal changes is crucial for employers, but it can be a real struggle to keep track of what exactly is changing when the changes take effect and what needs to be done to prepare.
We have put together an overview of some of the significant changes expected in the first part of 2024 and important dates for your diary.
National Minimum Wage increases – 1st April 2024
- From 1st April 2024, National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates are set to increase across the board by around 10% on the current rates.
- It remains that the actual hourly rate due to an employee depends on their age and whether they are an apprentice, but the increase does also see a slight shift in the age bands. From 1st April 2024, employees aged 21 and over will be entitled to the National Living Wage rate (which will rise from £10.42 to £11.44). Previously, only those employees aged 23 and over would be entitled to this rate, with younger employees being entitled to the lower National Minimum Wage rate.
Carer’s Leave Act 2023: A New Statutory Leave Entitlement – 6th April 2024
- From 6th April 2024, employees needing time off work to provide or arrange care for a dependent with a long-term care need will be able to request unpaid carer’s leave. This is a new statutory leave entitlement giving those eligible employees up to one week of flexible unpaid leave per year.
- The leave is not intended to be used by eligible employees for last-minute time off for emergencies involving their dependants; they will be expected to give twice the amount of notice than the period of leave requested.
- Employers will not be permitted to deny a request for leave but can reasonably postpone the leave period for up to one month if granting the leave on the date/s requested would result in operational disruption. Unreasonably postponing carer’s leave or preventing/ attempting to prevent an employee from taking this leave will give rise to a claim in the Employment Tribunal.
Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation, and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 – Changes to Holiday for Irregular-Hours and Part-Year Workers – 1st April 2024
- For annual leave years starting on or after 1st April 2024, employers will be permitted to calculate the holiday entitlement of part-year and irregular hours workers using 12.07% of actual hours worked in a pay period. Prior to this, such workers had a blanket entitlement to 5.6 weeks of paid leave per year, regardless of actual time worked in the leave year.
- These workers will now effectively earn annual leave incrementally throughout the course of the leave year, accruing leave each pay period at a rate of 12.07% of the number of hours worked that same pay period, up to the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks.
- This will also introduce the right for employers to choose to pay these workers “rolled up” holiday pay. That is, they will be permitted to pay a “holiday pay enhancement” on top of the worker’s wages each pay period, even when leave is not actually taken in that pay period, based on a calculation of 12.07% of pay in that same period. This is a practice that, while commonly used, has been previously unlawful.
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023: Flexible Working becomes a day one employment right – 6th April 2024
- From 6th April 2024, all employees will be entitled to request flexible working from day one of their employment. Previously only those employees with at least 26 weeks’ service would be entitled to make a request. This change applies to all flexible working requests made on or after 6th April 2024.
- The Act also sets out several other changes to the current rules. It is expected that these changes will also take effect from 6th April 2024; however, as of now, this has yet to be confirmed. These are:
- The introduction of mandatory consultation before an employer can reject a flexible working application.
- Removal of the requirement for employees to explain what effect they think their flexible working request will have on the employer.
- A reduction in the decision-making period from 3 months from the date of the request to 2 months.
- Increasing the number of applications an employee may make in any 12-month period to 2 applications, up from 1.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 – 6th April
- Those employees taking maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave have some extra protection from redundancy in that they must be given first refusal of any suitable alternative employment available. Currently, this “protected period” only applies during the time in which the employee is taking leave.
- From 6th April 2024, the Act will extend the “protected period” to a period of up to 18 months from the relevant cause of the leave (including the actual period of leave). For example, the protected period for employees taking maternity/ adoption leave will commence from the date on which the employer is notified of the pregnancy/ the start of the adoption leave and will end 18 months after the child’s date of birth/ placement with the employee.
If you have any questions about the above or need support for your business to navigate these changes, please contact the Employment Law Advisory Team on 01274 864 999.