As of Autumn 2023, the UK has seen significant updates and amendments in its employment laws, designed to uphold fairness, equality, and safety in the workplace. The following detailed points highlight the key changes within UK employment law:
1.New duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment on employer to come into force in 2024.
The worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill, imposes a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees, has received Royal Assent, becoming the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023.
The Act amends the Equality Act 2010 to:
a. Introduce a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees.
b. Employers breaching the new duty could be subject to enforcement action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and/or an uplift of up to 25% in any compensation award if a tribunal finds that an employee has been subjected to sexual harassment and the employer failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it.
At present, employers can defend a claim of sexual harassment by stating that it took reasonable steps to prevent the harassment from happening. Whereas the new duty that comes into effect from October 2024, means that the employer is required to be more pro-active in having appropriate processes in place to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place. Employer should consider a complete detailed policy covering harassment at work and regular staff training on the requirements of the policy.
2. Change to Working Time Regulations
The Government published a draft legislation on the amendments to the law on holiday pay and working time in November 2023. The amendments to the legislation are as follows:
a. Simplifying holiday pay calculations by making rolled up holiday pay (the traditional 12.07% calculation) will now be lawful for those who work irregular hours. The new legislation will amount to part-year and irregular worker.
b. EU case law in respect of holiday carry over when on sick or statutory leave has been mirrored in the regulations to ensure it will still apply. Therefore, the rights for employees and workers to carry over leave that cannot be taken due to periods of sickness absence or family related leave.
c. Removing the requirement to keep detailed records of working hours and rest breaks for all staff, ‘provided that the employer is able to demonstrate compliance with the Working Time Regulations without doing so’.
The new law changes are likely to come into force on 1 January 2024 and the proposed changes to the Working Time Regulations are significant.
3. Changes to National Minimum Wage Rates
On 21 November the Government announced its acceptance of the Low Pay Commission recommendations on national minimum wage rates to apply from 1 April 2024, National living Wage will apply to those aged 21 or over (currently 23), and will rise from £10.42 per hour to £11.44, with comparable increase to the other rates that apply to younger workers and apprentices. The age threshold is due to be lowered to 21 in April 2024 to cover workers aged 21 and 22.
4. Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) Reforms
At present, businesses with more than 9 employees who are affected by a TUPE transfer, the transferor (seller or outgoing contractor) and the transferee (buyer or incoming contractor) are usually obliged to provide information to, and in some cases consult, with elected representatives of employees affected by the transfer. The process of electing representatives can be time consuming and often employers would prefer to consult with employees on an individual basis.
The Government intends to amend TUPE after 1 July 2024 to enable small employers (fewer than 50 employees) and businesses of any size undertaking a transfer affecting fewer than 10 employees to consult directly with their employees if there are no existing worker representatives.
5. Reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 came into force on 28th October 2023. In most cases employers are not permitted to ask job candidates and employees about (and they are not obliged to reveal) convictions which have become spent. Exceptions apply to certain roles such as those working with vulnerable individuals.
Under the reforms, the length of time between being convicted and that convicted becoming spent shall reduce in respect of some convictions. The intention behind this change is to enable former offenders who are regarded as “rehabilitated” better prospects in the job market.
If you ask question about criminal convictions as part of your recruitment process or at any other stage in the employment relationship, it will be important to undertake a review to ensure that the business does not seek information that it is n longer entitled to receive.
6. Redundancy protection for pregnancy and family leave
At present, during any redundancy process an employer must offer those on maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave suitable alternative employment as a priority over other employees provisionally selected for redundancy.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 increases this protection, so staff are protected during or after any period of maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. It is not yet clear how long this protection will last after a return to work (with the Government indicating it may for a period of up to 18 months after the child’s birth). Further Regulations are anticipated which will set out this further detail, but they are not expected to come into force until at least April 2024.
7. The right to request flexible working arrangements.
Changes to the right to request flexible working arrangements are due to come into effect during 2024. Under a flexible working request an eligible employee can ask for their terms and conditions to be changed. The request could include a variety of practical solutions such as working from home, job sharing, part-time work, altered working hours, term time working.
The change will include for this right to apply from day one of employment. At present, an employee needs to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment to make a flexible working request. Also, for employees being allowed to make two requests in each 12-month period.
The government has said employers are being given time to prepare and expect the Act (and any secondary legislation required) to come into force around a year from the Bill gaining Royal Assent, so around July 2024.
Legal advice will be for employers to have a flexible working policy in place to ensure that the correct process is followed when requests are made. If companies already have a policy in place, they should make sure that it is up to date when the new regime comes into effect.
Important to Note:
The above points provide a comprehensive overview of the updates in UK employment law as of Autumn 2023. Specific legal advice or guidance should be sought for detailed information, as these amendments may vary based on sector, region, or specific circumstances.
This detailed statement covers various areas of employment law in the UK, but it’s important to note that specific details and regulations might vary based on the nature of the business, region, or recent legislative changes. Employers and employees are encouraged to stay updated with the latest legal requirements and seek professional advice for compliance. We at Kalra Legal Group can assist.
By Lakhvinder Kaur Digpal,
(Employment Law Solicitor).
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