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Are you ready for all the key changes to employment law this year?

In the coming months, there will be key changes to UK employment legislation, which will have a considerable impact on businesses, their operations and plans.

These updates to existing laws will require employers to take several actions throughout the year to ensure they remain compliant.

To help business owners understand their obligations, we have summarised some of the measures that will be introduced throughout the next 12 months.

Enhancements to worker protection against harassment

Amendments to the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023, scheduled to take effect in October 2024, will introduce a significant obligation on employers to actively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

By integrating a requirement for employers to take “reasonable steps” to avert such misconduct, the legislation aims to foster a safer working environment.

This proactive duty is underscored by a new statutory code of practice issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which offers guidance on compliance.

Employment tribunals will have the authority to increase compensation by up to 25 per cent in cases where employers have neglected this duty.

The introduction of a new form of Indirect Discrimination, where someone suffers the same disadvantage as those with a protected characteristic and the addition of protection from discrimination for women after giving birth are also included within this new legislation.

Discriminatory statements relating to recruitment will be expressly prohibited under this Act and in relation to equal pay claims, a new legal definition of “single body” expressly includes where the body is responsible for setting the terms of employment or is in a position to ensure equal treatment.

Together these changes represent a significant shift in the Equality Act and create a number of additional obligations for employers for which they need to prepare.

Advancements in flexible working rights

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 came into effect from 6 April 2024.

A long time in the making, this Act marks a pivotal shift by granting employees the right to request flexible working from their first day of employment – a significant update from the current requirement of six months of service.

Flexible working requests have seen a significant increase post-Covid, as workers attempt to improve their work-life balance.

The new legislation also permits employees to make two requests for flexible working within 12 months as opposed to one.

This change aims to adapt the law to current working trends without altering the grounds on which employers can lawfully refuse such requests.

Simplifying regulations on holiday pay, working time, and TUPE

The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 bring several key changes to the calculation of holiday pay for workers with irregular hours, endorsing rolled-up holiday pay calculated at a rate of 12.07% of the worker’s earnings.

This approach aims to simplify the process of determining holiday entitlement, making it more reflective of the actual hours worked over the year.

Additionally, the regulations modify requirements related to working time and rest periods by removing the mandate for employers to keep detailed records, although compliance must still be demonstrated through alternative means. This change is intended to ease the administrative burden on employers.

Regarding the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE), the new rules allow for direct consultation with employees in businesses with fewer than 50 employees or in transfers involving fewer than 10 employees.

This adaptation is designed to streamline the transfer process for smaller-scale operations, reducing the complexity and requirements of collective consultation.

Increasing certainty for gig economy workers

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023, aimed at enhancing the security of gig economy workers, Act introduces the right for these workers and agency workers to request more predictable and stable terms and conditions of employment.

This legislative update seeks to address the uncertainties often faced by workers in the gig economy regarding their working patterns and conditions. This legislation is not expected to come into effect until September 2024.

Changes to the National Minimum Wage        

From 1 April 2024, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) rates increased substantially – placing additional pressure on your payroll and businesses.

The NLW increased to £11.44 per hour – a substantial rise of £1.02 per hour or a 9.8% increase.

To complicate matters further, the eligibility age for the NLW has been lowered, making all workers aged 21 and over eligible for the NLW.

This is a crucial update that broadens the scope of the NLW, impacting many employers and their payroll considerations.

Furthermore, the NMW rates for younger workers and apprentices also changed:

  • For 18-20-year-olds, the rate rose to £8.60 per hour (up 14.8%).
  • For 16-17-year-olds, the new rate is £6.40 per hour (up 21.2%).
  • The Apprenticeship rate increased to £6.40 per hour (up 21.2%).

These updates necessitate compliance with the new wage standards and eligibility requirements. The Government continues to name and shame employers who fail to comply, and substantial fines may be imposed.

Time for review

Given the scale of changes during 2024, now is a great time to review your existing HR processes.

It is highly recommended that employers seek professional legal advice to ensure that their employment processes are consistent with current and upcoming legislation.

In many cases, failing to have the right policies and procedures in place could result in fines from regulators and may expose a business to tribunal claims and reputational damage.

To find out how we can assist you with these changes, please contact us.

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