In 2024, we are witnessing substantial shifts that will impact businesses across the UK. As your trusted HR consultancy and partner, Halliday’s HR is committed to keeping you informed and empowered. Let’s delve into the six crucial employment law changes you need to be aware of this year.

1. The Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023

The Equality Act has been amended to protect certain rights against discrimination which derive from EU Law, so they are not lost by the Retained EU Law Act 2023 (as a result of Brexit).

The Regulations amend the Equality Act 2010 to achieve this purpose. The amendments are specifically in relation to the following:

  • Direct discrimination related to pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding.
  • Indirect discrimination where a person without a relevant protected characteristic suffers substantively the same disadvantage as those with that protected characteristic.
  • Direct discrimination in the context of access to employment and occupation as regards public statements outside a recruitment process.
  • The definition of disability in relation to employment and occupation.

2. Changes to Flexible Working

Likely to be implemented from 6th April 2024. The government has set out its intention to overhaul flexible working rules by:

  • Making flexible working a day one right. This would mean that employees won’t need to have completed 26 weeks’ service before making a request, as they currently do.
  • Prohibiting employers from rejecting an application without having discussed the flexible working requests and explored other options with employees. Note that this is already considered best practice, so is unlikely to change much.
  • Allowing employees to make two requests in any 12-month period, rather than one.
  • Reducing the timeframe for dealing with a request from three months to two months.
  • Removing the current requirement for employees to explain what effect, if any, the change they are requesting would have on the employer and how this might be dealt with.

3. Extended Redundancy Protection for New Parents

Currently, under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations 1999, a woman on maternity leave whose job is being made redundant “is entitled to be offered (before the end of her employment under her existing contract) alternative employment.”

In 2019, the UK Government announced its intention to extend redundancy protection for pregnant employees until 6 months after the end of their maternity leave.

Regulations are currently with Parliament awaiting approval.

4. Carer’s Leave Act 2023

Unpaid carers often face significant financial, emotional, and physical challenges in caring for their loved ones and may occasionally need time off work to attend to their care responsibilities.

Following a full consultation in September 2021, the government confirmed plans to introduce carer’s leave in England, Wales and Scotland “when Parliamentary time allows.”

Full details of how such leave would be implemented are not clear since this should be contained in Regulations yet to be introduced, but it is intended that employees would be able to take the leave flexibly to suit their caring responsibilities and that employees will not be expected to provide evidence of how the leave is used or who it will be used for.

If and when these are approved, we will update you to set out the changes, which are envisaged to take effect from 6 April 2024.

5. Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023

Having a baby in neonatal care can be a very stressful and emotional experience for parents, and being able to take extra time off work to be with their baby and provide support can be hugely beneficial for their mental health and wellbeing. It can also be very expensive, in terms of lost income if parents need to take time off work.

To support families and make it easier for them to focus on their baby’s health without worrying about their job security or income, the Act was passed by Government.

Regulations are still required, and although the duration isn’t specified in the Act, this new right is expected to provide both parents with up to 12 weeks of paid leave and would be in addition to other leave entitlements, such as maternity and paternity leave.

The leave will be available to employees from their first day of employment where neonatal care:

  • Starts before the end of a period of 28 days, beginning with the day after the child’s birth; and
  • Continues uninterrupted for a period of at least seven days, beginning with the day after the day on which the care started.

Employees will be able to take the leave either when their child is receiving neonatal care or after that period, meaning parents will be able to add neonatal care leave to the end of other forms of statutory parental leave that they may be entitled to. Statutory neonatal care pay will be available to employees who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service and earn at least the lower earnings limit of £123 per week.

It’s not a question of whether this right will be introduced but when.

6. Allocation of Tips

Many hospitality workers rely on tips to top up their pay and are often left powerless if businesses don’t pass on service charges from customers to their team.

To combat this, the government announced a change to tipping policy as part of its the Good Work Plan back in 2018, which would require employers to pass on tips in full and establish rules for fair and transparent distribution. Progress through Parliament has been slow, though the changes are expected to come into force in May 2024.

When the Act substantively comes into force, it will bolster the rights of workers and employees in the hospitality sector, requiring employers to correctly pass on tips, have in place a policy on fair allocation of tips, and to keep appropriate records.

Failure to allocate tips fairly by the employer could result in a compensation payment of up to £5,000 being made in respect of each worker. The time limit for bringing a claim (starting from date of non-payment or incorrect allocation) is 12 months.

How Hallidays HR can help:

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 476 8276 or email hr@hallidayshr.co.uk. And of course, visit our LinkedIn page.