The new year is bringing a range of changes to UK employment law that will significantly boost workplace inclusivity.
Among the most promising are changes to flexible working rights, gender pay gap reporting and sexual harassment. There are also upcoming changes to the minimum wage, zero hours and agency workers, and holiday pay and entitlement.
Jodie Hill, founder and managing partner at Thrive Law, commented: “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.”
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. This includes remote work or altered working hours, regardless of their length of service.
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.
Zero hours and agency workers
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act is expected to come into force in September 2024. This will give zero-hour/casual and agency workers a new 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.
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.
Harassment related to a particular protected characteristic is a form of discrimination. Sexual harassment is a slightly different type of harassment.
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. Employers can also be held vicariously liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by its employees.
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. This arguably improves safeguarding measures and protection for employees, helping to improve workplace cultures.
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.
- Introducing a method to calculate statutory holiday entitlement for irregular hours and part-year workers.
- 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.
- Removing the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which affect the accrual of COVID-19 carryover of leave—from 1 January 2024, workers can no longer accrue COVID-19 carryover leave.
- 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.
- Defining what is considered ‘normal remuneration’ in relation to the four weeks of statutory annual leave
From 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.
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 anticipated to take effect on 6 April 2024, providing increased protection for individuals on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave. Currently, individuals on such leave are entitled to receive an offer for a suitable alternative vacancy (where available) before facing redundancy, granting them priority over other employees at risk of redundancy.
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 take effect on 6 April 2024. It permits employees to take one week of unpaid leave per holiday year to care for a dependent with long-term needs. The term “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 anticipated to take effect in April 2025. It grants parents who have babies in neonatal care within the first 28 days of their life (for seven continuous days or more) the ability to take neonatal leave and receive pay for up to 12 weeks. This will be a day one right.
The draft legislation currently proposes potential amendments to the Equality Act 2010, but they have not yet been confirmed.
The changes include:
- Direct discrimination—the protection will cover discriminatory statements made about not wanting to recruit people with certain protected characteristics.
- Indirect discrimination by association—to cover a person who does not hold the relevant protected characteristic but suffers the same disadvantage 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.