What are the latest changes to employment law?

Trusted partner, Adrian Berwick of AB HR Solutions, provides an overview of the latest changes to employment law. Whilst some of these changes are effective from April 2024, he also covers the changes we can expect to be introduced later in the year too.

Change to employment law effective from April 2024

Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023

Pregnant employees or those returning from maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave will be protected from redundancy. It will be the employer’s duty to offer these employees a suitable alternative vacancy in the 18 months after birth or adoption. 

This is not new – it is effectively an extension of the existing right to be offered a vacancy while on leave and failure to comply would be unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Carer’s Leave Act 2023

This states that employees with carer responsibilities will be granted a legal right to take up to 5 days off a year to fulfil their responsibilities. These days will be unpaid and can be taken as full or half days.

Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023

The change is that employees gain the right to request flexible working from day one of employment and an employee can make 2 requests in a year.

This needs to be put in context – this is a right to request flexible working and not a statutory right to flexible working and employers are able to refuse requests on one or more of a number of recognised business grounds.

Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024

Employees will be able to take statutory paternity leave at any point in the first year (previously it was only allowed during the first 8 weeks) and will be able to split it up into two separate blocks of one week.

National Minimum Wage

Increases came into effect from 1 April 2024 as follows:

Age 21 and over – £11.44 (up from £10.42)

18 – 20 – £8.60 (up from £7.49)

16 – 17 and apprentices – £6.40 (up from £5.28)

Further Changes to Employment Law

There are more changes expected which will happen later in the year and these include;

Strengthened provisions in the Equality Act 2010

The purpose of these Regulations is to include certain aspects of EU law within the Equality Act 2010, which would otherwise have been revoked at the end of 2023. They extend protection against direct discrimination relating to pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding and indirect discrimination by association (where someone without a protected characteristic suffers discrimination because of their association with someone with a protected characteristic).

Indirect discrimination by association is recognised currently but this gives additional protection and employers will have to take particular care to avoid claims for indirect discrimination by association when considering requests for home or flexible working, where employees have caring responsibilities.

Sexual harassment: The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 

Likely to come into force in October 2024, it imposes a duty of employers to take reasonable steps’ rather than ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and imposes an obligation on employers to be proactive in tackling sexual harassment. If this duty is found to be breached, tribunals have the power to increase any compensation due by 25%. In the background, we have seen press coverage of sexual harassment suffered by staff at McDonalds so we can be sure that this issue will always attract headlines.

“Fire and rehire 

This is a lawful process used to change and vary terms and conditions of employment. It is known that there will be plans to publish the final version of its Code of Practice on dismissal and re-engagement. The Code is designed to govern the conduct of employers planning to change employees’ terms and conditions by dismissing and then rehiring them.

Occupational Health – an Occupational Health: Working Better 

A consultation was published in November 2023. The main thrust of the proposals is to encourage employers to make more use of Occupational Health (OH) to support their workforce. 

The intention is to develop an understanding of Occupational Health and the development of a long-term, strategic approach to embedding OH in the workplace.

Many Companies already use the services of OH to facilitate returns to work, support with the development of reasonable adjustments as well as sourcing OH reports for dealing with employees with long terms absence issues where there is an underlying issue.

Adrian Berwick offers HR support to SMEs and if you want any advice or guidance on the issues raised in this article, you can contact him directly on 07885 714771 or emai [email protected].

All businesses can experience challenges with their people – we are all human and experience difficulties in life. Managing these issues properly is critical to running an effective business.

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