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January 2024 Newsletter

Calendar January 11, 2024

Happy New Year! Updates in Employment Law

Announcements and Offers
As everyone returns to work after the festive period, we want to make sure your business is set up for success in the coming year! That’s why we are offering complimentary reviews for handbooks and contracts in the month of January. To take advantage of this offer email us on [email protected]. Our team of experts is ready to meticulously review and enhance your Company Handbook and Contracts, so contact us today to avoid missing out!

Working Time Regulations
2024 will be a busy year for HR practitioners and line managers. New legislation will increase legal protections for pregnant women, new parents, carers, and those wanting to work flexibly. Significant changes are underway to the Working Time Regulations and a new duty to prevent workplace sexual harassment will also take effect.

1. Flexible working to become a day one right (from 6 April 2024):
Presently, an employee must have 26 weeks’ service to initiate a flexible working request; however new regulations laid before parliament confirm this will become a day one right from 6 April next year. From the same date, enhanced redundancy protections for parents and a new right to carer’s leave will also come into force.

This is a right to request flexible working and not a “right to have” flexible working – employers can still turn down requests they can’t accommodate. With new starters being able to make a request, employers may want to consider possible flexible working options when designing and creating new roles and how these might (or might not) work in practice (depending on business needs) so that you’re ready to consider and respond to any early requests that are made.

Further changes to the flexible working regime are also expected next year, including:

  • an increase to the number of flexible working requests an employee can make in a year from one to two; and
  • a reduction to the length of time an employer has to respond to the request from three to two months (including hearing any appeal).
  • 2. Pregnancy and maternity leave:
    Employees will now be protected during pregnancy (from the point they tell their employer they are pregnant) and during an additional protected period after they return to work from statutory maternity leave.

    This period is calculated from the first day of the expected week of childbirth for a period of 18 months. This means that, if an employee takes their full 12 months of statutory maternity leave, they’ll receive an extra six months of protection following their return to work. The new rules apply where the employer is informed of the pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024, and for the additional protected period, for any maternity leave ending on or after 6 April 2024. The new rules will also afford protection to employees who have suffered a miscarriage for a period of two weeks after the pregnancy ends.

    3. Shared parental leave:
    Similarly, employees will now be protected during shared parental leave plus an additional protected period when they return to work, calculated from the date of birth of the child/the child’s placement for adoption for a period of 18 months (the additional protected period will only be available providing the employee has taken at least six weeks of continuous shared parental leave and will apply to shared parental leave starting on or after 6 April 2024).

    Discrimination – Workplace harassment & Equality Act
    1. New rules on combating workplace harassment:
    The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) 2023 will impose a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces. If they fail to do so, a tribunal can award a claimant additional compensation of up to 25% of their compensatory award.

    This will come into force in the autumn of 2024 and employers will have to update their diversity and inclusion policies and ensure that the training they provide to their staff complies with the new law.

    2. Equality Act 2010 amendments:
    The Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023 make a number of amendments to the Equality Act 2010, which shall take effect on 1 January 2024.

    The amendments include an expanded definition of “disability”, protection for breastfeeding mothers from direct sex discrimination in the workplace, protection from direct sex discrimination relating to pregnancy or maternity (expanded wording), allowing individuals to bring indirect discrimination claims by association, and changes to the law relating to comparators for equal pay purposes.

    Benefits rates to be increased in April 2024
    According to proposals set out in a Department for Work and Pensions policy paper, the rates for Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay, Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Maternity Allowance will all increase from £172.48 to £184.03 per week. The rate for Statutory Sick Pay will increase from £109.40 to £116.75 per week. These rate rises represent an increase by 6.7% in line with CPI for the year to September 2023.

    Pay and Wages
    1. Changes to holiday and holiday pay:
    New rules will apply to workers with irregular working hours (such as those engaged on zero hours contracts) and those working under part-year contracts. They won’t automatically be entitled to 5.6 weeks holiday each year and instead, will accrue holiday at a rate of 12.07% of the hours they work. Employers will also be able to lawfully roll-up holiday pay for this group of workers by paying an additional 12.07% on top of their hourly pay, provided they itemise this separately on their payslips. Employers can make these changes for leave years on or after 1 April 2024.

    Other changes will come into force from 1 January 2024 including defining what types of payments have to be included in holiday pay (including some commission, bonus payments, uplifts for professional or personal status or seniority and overtime payments). The new rules also expressly set out when a worker will be able to roll over holiday from one leave year to the next (and in some cases beyond that). They also put a new duty on employers to inform their staff if they have outstanding holiday they need to take before the end of the leave year.

    Employers will need to review the contracts of employment of their staff to ensure that they reflect these new rules and amend any that don’t.

    2. National Minimum Wage:
    There are some hefty wage increases employers will need to factor in. From April 2024, the National Living Wage will apply to workers aged 21 and over and the rate is increasing to £11.44 an hour, those aged between 18-20 will receive £8.60 an hour; 16 and 17 year olds will receive £6.40 an hour and apprentices under the age of 19 or in their first year £6.40 an hour.

    Further, new regulations are expected to come into force on 1 April 2024 that will remove the current exemption from National Minimum Wage applying to live-in domestic workers who are not family members but who are treated as such (i.e. au pairs and nannies). This will mean that you will need to pay those individuals at the applicable rate of National Minimum Wage.

    Immigration and the right to work in in the UK
    1. New rules:
    Significant changes to the immigration system are set to come into force in Spring 2024.

    The key changes include the minimum salary for a skilled worker visa rising from £26,200 to £38,700 in all sectors save for health and care, limits on migrants bringing family members to live in the UK unless they earn £38,700 (currently £18,600), the annual immigration health surcharge increasing by 66% to £1,035 and the Shortage Occupation List being replaced with a new Immigration Salary List.

    The government confirmed just before Christmas that the limits on bringing family members to live in the UK will only apply to first-time visa applicants: ‘those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold’.

    2. Increased fine for illegal workers:
    From January 2024, the maximum civil penalty for employing an illegal worker is set to triple from £15,000 to £45,000 for a first breach and from £20,000 to £60,000 for repeat breaches (amounts are per illegal worker).

    Other changes
    1. TUPE Changes:
    From 1 January 2024, businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and businesses of any size carrying out a small TUPE transfer of fewer than 10 employees, will be able to inform and consult directly with affected employees where there are no existing worker representatives in place.

    2. Status of EU Law:
    The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 was passed in June and comes into force on 1 January 2024. EU law will be retained unless it is specifically revoked or amended. The Act abolishes the principle of the supremacy of EU law and the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal will be able to depart from retained EU law. Tribunals will also be able to refer questions to these courts to decide whether it can depart from previously binding case law. This is likely to lead to uncertainty.

    For the latest news in Employment Law, subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates in 2024.

    By Suraj Purohit.
    Employment Paralegal at Kalra Legal Group.


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