It is often difficult for employers and HR professionals to keep abreast with ever-evolving Employment Law. So with 2024 on the horizon, we have summarised 5 key Employment Law changes that organisations should be preparing for.
1. Changes to Flexible Working
As it currently stands, any employee who has worked in an organisation for 26 weeks or longer is entitled to make one formal flexible working request during any 12-month period. The main headline in this regard is the introduction of a right to request flexible working from DAY ONE of employment. Although this wasn’t made explicit in the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, the Government has indicated that it will extend the right to all employees through secondary legislation.
If we take a closer look at the proposed changes under the Act, employees will have the right to make 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period and will no longer have to explain what effect they think the change will make to the employer and how this could be dealt with. Employers will also be required to deal with any application within 2 months, rather than 3 as is currently the case (if no extension is agreed) and must consult with employees before a flexible working request can be refused, including exploring alternative options).
The new rights aren’t due to be implemented until mid to late 2024. Therefore, contact us if you would like to request a copy of our quick reference guide on the process as it is now.
2. Right to request a predictable working pattern
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will provide a new statutory right for anybody engaged by a business on a working arrangement that isn’t full-time, isn’t open-ended and doesn’t feature regular hours, to request a predictable working pattern. Essentially, we’re talking about anyone who’s hours of work lack predictability such as agency workers, those on zero hours contracts or contracts that specify core hours that can be varied according to business need.
Whilst the Government’s press release is headed up ‘Millions get more power over working hours thanks to new law’, employers concerned that they will suddenly lose the ability to bend and flex their workforce according to demand, needn’t panic.
The new law will only provide atypical workers with the right to REQUEST a more predictable work schedule, not to have their working pattern automatically changed. The timescale for responding to requests for more predictable working patterns under the new legislation will be within 1 month of the date of the request, and will inevitably have the greatest impact on sectors where shift patterns vary as rotas change, e.g. the hospitality sector.
With the best part of a year until implementation, there’s a fair bit of time for businesses to prepare for this. Contact us to ensure that you have the required policies / procedures in place.
3. Sexual Harassment – A New Duty on Employers
Earlier this year, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill passed through the House of Commons. This private member’s bill initially proposed amendments to the Equality Act 2010 to make employers liable for third-party harassment and to introduce a duty requiring employers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
However, following a debate in the House of Lords in July, the new employer liability for third-party harassment has been dropped from the draft amendments. New legislation comes into effect in October 2024 which will require all employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. If they don’t, they could face a 25% uplift to the compensatory award in a related Employment Tribunal claim.
To help you navigate this complex area of the law and prepare you and your team for the changes, why not attend our FREE Breakfast Seminar ‘Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – A New Duty on Employers’ which takes place on Tuesday 27 February 2024, 9.30 am – 12:30 pm at Ringway Golf Club? More than half the ticket allocation has already gone so visit Eventbrite today and register your FREE place before it’s too late!
4. New bill guaranteeing tips for hospitality workers
The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill is a private member’s bill to introduce a legal obligation on employers to ensure all tips, gratuities and service charges are paid to workers in full, without deductions.
Withholding tips from staff will be unlawful and employers will be legally obliged to distribute them fairly amongst staff. Employers that fail to comply with the new legislation will be at risk of Employment Tribunal claims, which could result in them having to amend tip allocations and / or pay compensation.
Whilst all this should be good news for the 2m UK hospitality workers, businesses that engage them may be negatively impacted by additional expense in a sector that’s already beset by rising costs.
If you’re an employer in the hospitality or leisure industry and require any further advice regarding these changes, contact us to ensure your policies / procedures reflect these changes.
5. Parental Rights
Currently, employees on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave whose employment is put at risk during a redundancy process have a right to be offered any suitable alternative employment that exists, regardless of whether there are other candidates with more skill or experience. New legislation will extend this protection to pregnant employees and those who’ve recently returned from such leave, effectively extending the period in which they will be protected. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 was introduced back in July, but it requires still-to-be-published regulations to bring it into effect. These are expected around April next year.
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 provides for a ‘day one’ statutory right to a week’s unpaid leave to care for a dependant. As above, this requires regulations to be published for it to come into effect. When they are, the Government’s response to the consultation suggests that they’ll provide for the leave to be taken flexibly, either as full days or half days, up to a block of one week in every 12-month period. The leave is to enable carers to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.
With these new rights not coming into force until April (at the earliest), there’s obviously time for businesses to prepare. Contact us to ensure you have the required policies / procedures in place.
If you’re an employer or HR professional and would like further advice regarding any pending Employment Law changes in 2024, give us a call on 01942 727200 and speak to one of our experts for a no obligation chat, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.