With plenty of new legislation working its way into law, we have prepared a summary of forthcoming legal changes to assist with your planning for 2024 and beyond.
…more predictable working hours
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 gives workers, including agency workers, the right to request a predictable work pattern. A worker can request more predictability in the days of the week worked, hours worked, and in relation to the period of engagement. We expect that there will be a requirement of at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment prior to making the request and only two requests will be accepted in any 12-month period.
This is only a right to request predictability, the employer must respond to the request in a reasonable time frame and will be entitled to reject requests on statutory grounds, which are yet to be confirmed but are expected to be similar to the rights to refuse a flexible working request.
The right is expected to be in force by Autumn 2024 and ACAS will produce a code of practice to guide employers’ decision-making processes.
…more flexible working requests
The new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 makes changes to the process for employees making a flexible working request:
- Your employee will no longer have to consider the effect their request might have on your organisation or consider potential solutions for you.
- Employees can now make two requests in any 12-month period, rather than one.
- Employers will only have two months to consider an employee’s application, rather than three months currently, unless a longer decision period has been agreed with the employee.
These changes are expected from July 2024 and it is likely that the requirement for 26 weeks’ continuous employment before any such request can be made will be removed.
See here for further information.
…changes to family friendly rights
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 introduced additional statutory leave and pay for parents if their child receives neonatal care. The parent will be entitled to up to 12 weeks’ leave, dependant on the length of time neonatal care is required. The rights and protections are expected to be akin to those during and following maternity leave. There will not be a qualifying period of employment to be eligible.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 extends the redundancy protection which applies to maternity, adoption and shared parental leave to during pregnancy and following miscarriage. It is expected that the protections will last for six months after the period of leave (or dependent on the amount of leave taken in the case of shared parental leave). As a reminder, employees returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave have an automatic right to be offered any appropriate role as a priority over other employees at risk of redundancy.
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 creates a statutory entitlement to at least one week’s unpaid leave in any 12-month period to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need. We await secondary legislation to clarify whether this can be broken down into isolated days or whether it will need to be taken as a block of leave.
The government will need to pass secondary legislation before any of the above rights come into force. See here for further information.
…more responsibility to protect against sexual harassment
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill creates a mandatory duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. A worker will still be able to bring a successful claim against their employer if they can evidence that sexual harassment has taken place in the workplace. Likewise, their employer will still have a defence to a claim of sexual harassment by a worker if the employer can show that it “took all reasonable steps to prevent” the harassment.
However, if a worker succeeds with a claim for sexual harassment and an employer cannot demonstrate that reasonable steps were taken to prevent the sexual harassment, the worker will be entitled to additional compensation of up to 25% of their compensatory award.
This is expected to come into force in Autumn 2024. See here for further information.
…additional fraud prevention requirements
The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill creates a new corporate offence of “failure to prevent fraud”. This means that larger businesses could be liable for unlimited fines if they have failed to prevent their employees from committing fraud, even when they were not aware of anything untoward happening, if the business has failed to put in place reasonable prevention measures. The government will be publishing guidance on what measures will be considered reasonably expected.
This is in the final stages of parliamentary approval but is yet to be passed into law. See here for further information.
…greater pensions contributions
The Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023 reduces the eligibility age for auto-enrolment from 22 to 18 years old and abolishes the lower earnings limit for contributions (currently set at £6,240 per annum). A consultation will be launched by the Department of Work and Pensions to consider the implementation of these measures. This process is expected to start later this year or early 2024.
Other potential changes on the horizon…
- To paternity leave, with greater flexibility about when this leave may be taken.
- To restrictive covenants, introducing a three-month cap on non-compete clauses.
- To how holiday entitlement is calculated for irregular workers, making entitlement proportionate to hours worked and reinstating the 12.07% calculation.
If you have any questions about how any of these changes may impact your business, please contact a member of our employment team. You may also wish to subscribe to The S&B People Podcast, a series of bite-sized podcasts aimed at busy HR professionals and employers covering the latest developments in employment and immigration law.