Legal Talk: Employment Law Changes for 2024

With Elmhirst Parker Solicitors, Barnsley

The world of work has been through a transformative change over the last few years and that state of flux doesn’t seem to be settling any time soon.

Employment law is already a minefield of policies and procedures. Some employers find themselves in hot water after failing to stay abreast of developments. But this year, there are a whole host of new laws coming into effect that will impact many areas of employment and HR.

Minimum wage increases

From the new tax year, which starts on 6th April, the hourly rates of all three minimum wage bands will increase by more than £1. This will be the largest ever increase in the minimum wage in cash terms driven by the strength of pay growth across the economy.

The National Living Wage will also extend to those aged 21 and over; the age threshold was previously 23. For a full-time worker, the National Living Wage increase will equate to a pay rise of around £1,800 a year.

  • National Living Wage (21+) – £11.44 was £10.42.
  • National Minimum Wage (18-20) – £8.60 was £7.49.
  • Apprentices and Under 18s – £6.40 was £5.28.

Flexible and predictable working

The Monday to Friday 9am-5pm working pattern doesn’t suit everyone. But many employees might not realise they can ask their employer to let them work in a way that suits their needs.

Two new laws are coming into force that will double the number of requests staff can make during a 12-month period to two for flexible working or predictable working.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will mean employees can make two requests to change to the number of hours or days worked, the start or finish time, or changing to remote or hybrid working. 

It will also become a day one entitlement, rather than limited to employees with at least 26 weeks’ service. Employees will no longer have to explain the effect that the requested change will have on the business, and their employer must respond within two months rather than three. Employers do not have to agree to a request.

On the other side of the coin, zero-hours or agency workers will have the right to request more predictable terms and conditions under the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023. However, there will be a minimum service of 26 weeks.

While the flexible working law comes into effect in April, the predictable working law won’t be enforced until autumn.

Additional family leave

Employees have the statutory right to take time off work in certain circumstances, and it can be either paid or unpaid leave.

Two new laws have been passed to enhance the amount of time off that employees can have to care for others to help them remain in the workplace. In both instances, staff will be protected from dismissal or detriment because of taking leave.

Many people juggle work with unpaid caring responsibilities for their loved ones. The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 starts in April and will mean that employees are entitled to five days of unpaid leave each year to care for a dependant with long-term care needs. Long-term needs will be judged on things like disability, an illness or injury needing care for three months or more, or old age. The five days can be taken in full or half days, either consecutively or non-consecutively.

From next spring, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 will mean that parents of newborn babies admitted to neonatal care can take an additional 12 weeks paid leave on top of other entitlements such as maternity or paternity leave.

Redundancy protection

New safeguards will come into place to protect pregnant women or those returning to work after family leave against redundancy. Under current law, employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave have the right to be offered suitable alternative vacancies if facing redundancy. However, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will grant them priority status for redeployment opportunities in a redundancy situation over other staff.

What should employers do?

Before these new laws come into effect, employers should examine their current policies, procedures and employment contracts to determine whether any adjustments are needed to remain compliant with the law. Some of the new laws may require new policies to be drafted.

At Elmhirst Parker Solicitors, our team of employment law specialists can advise both employers and employees on issues with contracts, discrimination, tribunals, family leave, redundancy and dismissal, and TUPE transfers.