Employment Law Run Down 2024: What Employers Need to Know

Here is a breakdown of the 2024 employment law changes:

Minimum Wage

There will be an almost 10% increase in the national living wage, effective from 1st April 2024 as a result of high inflation and the cost of living crisis. The increase in the hourly rate will go from £10.42 to £11.44. The rise in the national living wage will, for the first time, include 21 and 22-year-olds.

There will be an increase of £1.11 per hour, raising the national minimum wage rates for younger workers to £8.60 for individuals aged 18 to 20. Furthermore, apprentices undertaking various roles, particularly in industries like construction, will also witness a pay boost. For instance, the minimum hourly pay for an 18-year-old apprentice in these sectors will rise significantly from £5.28 to £6.40.

Miscarriage Leave Bill

This new legislation aims to grant three days of paid leave to individuals who have experienced baby loss before reaching 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, the bill’s progress has faced delays in its second reading, initially scheduled for 24th November 2023, as parliamentary sessions were postponed.

TUPE

From 1st January 2024, the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) rights are set to take effect.

These reforms aim to streamline the process for small businesses undergoing transfers. Small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) and businesses of any size undertaking a transfer of fewer than 10 employees, are able to consult directly with their employees if there are no existing worker representatives. 

Carer’s Leave Act

Set to come into force in April 2024, this legislation will allow workers to take a minimum of one week of unpaid carer’s leave per year. This provision extends its support to those dealing with prolonged illnesses, injuries expected to last more than three months, individuals with disabilities, and those engaged in caregiving for the elderly. Notably, employees can potentially reschedule the leave within one month of its original commencement date, offering a degree of flexibility.

The legislation also highlights that the process of evidencing the care needs of the person requiring support remains unspecified. Although no specific documentation is anticipated, employees are encouraged to provide notice equivalent to twice the time they intend to take off. For instance, if a day off is needed to accompany a relative to a medical appointment, two days’ notice should be given. This framework aims to balance the needs of employees with caring responsibilities while ensuring businesses can operate smoothly, with allowances for necessary adjustments.

Flexible Working Act

Coming into force on 6th April 2024, the Flexible Working (Amendments) Regulations 2023 will give employees more flexible working rights. Individuals will be able to submit up to two flexible working requests within a year, providing a more adaptive framework to accommodate changing work-life needs. Employees will no longer be obliged to outline the impact of their request on the company upon submission and employers will need to reach a decision within two months, a reduction from the previous three-month timeframe.

Holiday Pay Rates and Carry-Over

From 1st January 2024, the law has been clarified as to what should be included in holiday pay (Regulation 13, Working Time Regulations 1998) as follows. 

  • Payments, including commission payments and performance-related bonuses, which are intrinsically linked to the performance of tasks which a worker is obliged to carry out under the terms of their contract;
  • Payments for professional or personal status relating to length of service, seniority or professional qualifications; and
  • Other payments, such as overtime payments, which have been regularly paid to a worker in the 52 weeks preceding the calculation date.

The above continues to apply to 4 weeks of holiday entitlement only, conveyed by EU law.  

The additional 1.6 weeks of holiday entitlement, conveyed by UK law, continues to be separate and payment for this period continues to apply at basic rate of pay.

NB.  Please note that many employers pay all holidays at the same rate and it is fine to do that and continue to do that. 

The government is also set during 2024 to reintroduce rolled-up holiday pay, a method wherein employers compensate employees for their annual leave as a bundled payment, often presented as an enhanced hourly rate, instead of disbursing it during the actual period of annual leave.

Previously considered unlawful, this approach is slated for revival but will be exclusively applicable to individuals with irregular hours or those engaged in seasonal work, addressing a common practice under “atypical contracts” like zero-hours agreements.

Additionally, the reinstatement of the 12.07% percentage method for calculating annual leave accrual, following the Supreme Court Judgment in Harper Trust vs Brazel in 2022, is set to benefit part-year workers and those with irregular working hours. This method, removed due to concerns of potentially granting excessive leave compared to year-round colleagues, is scheduled to be reintroduced for annual leave years starting on or after 1st April 2024. As the government aims to streamline and clarify holiday pay regulations, further guidance on these changes is anticipated this year.

The new regulations outline situations where employees can carry over untaken holidays into the next leave year. These circumstances include instances where a worker couldn’t use their holiday entitlement due to maternity/adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave, parental leave, or parental bereavement leave.

Additionally, if a worker faced an inability to take a holiday due to sick leave (absence resulting from sickness or injury), or if the employer didn’t acknowledge the right to holiday or failed to provide a reasonable opportunity or encouragement for the worker to take their entitled leave, carry-over rights may be maintained.

Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, currently under parliamentary consideration, mark a significant step in confirming the protections against redundancy for employees on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave.

According to the existing regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, parents under these specific leaves are entitled to the first refusal of any suitable alternative employment in the event of redundancy.

The amended regulations extend the protective period for maternity, encompassing pregnancy and extending 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth. This period can be shifted to 18 months from the exact date of birth if the employee provides notice to the employer before the conclusion of maternity leave.

For adoption, the protected period spans 18 months from the placement for adoption. Shared parental leave sees an extension of the protected period to 18 months from birth, contingent upon the parent taking at least 6 consecutive weeks of shared parental leave.

This protection doesn’t apply if the employee is already protected under the previously mentioned provisions. The extension to cover pregnancy takes effect from 6th April 2024, if the employer is informed of the pregnancy on or after this date. This extension also applies to maternity and adoption leave ending on or after 6th April 2024, and shared parental leave starting on or after the same date.

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