Upcoming Employment Law Updates

January 8, 2024

There were some important pieces of employment legislation passed in 2023 and coming into effect this year. These updates cover various aspects of employment law, including flexible working rights, carers' leave, protection from redundancy, and worker protection from third-party harassment.

Employers, take note of these changes and ensure you are prepared to comply with the new regulations. Let's dive in and explore the details of these upcoming updates.

Flexible Working

Last year, there were two pieces of legislation impacting the right to make flexible working requests. Firstly, we had the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 which introduced the following changes: 

  • All workers will be given the legal right to request flexible working.
  • Employees will get 2 chances to submit a request (instead of 1) in a 12-month period.
  • Employers will be required to respond within 2 months (instead of whenever it would be convenient).
  • An employer will not be permitted to refuse a request unless the employee has been consulted.

It was also expected that this piece of legislation would include the right becoming a day one right, but no! However, in the end it was dealt with under separate legislation, namely the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023. 

These changes will come into force in April 2024, so employers should make sure they make the necessary changes to their policies and procedures before then to avoid falling foul of the new legislation.

Carers’ Leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 set out the scheme under which employees can apply for up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave. The regulations give employees who have a dependant with a long-term care need, the right to make a request for carers’ leave to provide care, or arrange care, for that dependant,.

The right will kick in from day one. Requests can be made for consecutive, or non-consecutive, half-days or full days. Employees will have to give notice of their intention to take carer’s leave. Notice must be in writing and must be twice as long as the period of leave requested. Or, if longer, three days’ notice.

From an employer’s perspective, they can postpone a request if it would unduly disrupt the operation of the business. In these circumstances, the employer has to give notice of the postponement before the leave was due to begin, and must explain why the postponement is necessary. The employer must then allow the leave to be taken within one month of the start-date of the leave originally requested.

The Regulations are due to come into force on 6 April 2024.

Protection from Redundancy

Currently, the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 provide that parents on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave should be offered first refusal of any suitable alternative employment which may be available in a redundancy situation. However, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will extend the protection period in the following ways:

  • For maternity – it will cover pregnancy, alongside 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth. The protected period can be changed to cover 18 months from the exact date of birth, if the employee gives the employer notice of this date prior to the end of maternity leave.

  • For adoption – it will cover 18 months from placement for adoption.

  • For shared parental leave – it will cover 18 months from birth, provided that the parent has taken a period of at least six consecutive weeks of shared parental leave, unless the previous two points protect the employee.

The extension to the protected period to cover pregnancy will apply to cases where the employer is informed of the pregnancy on, or after, 6 April 2024.

The extension of the protected period, to cover a period of time after leave has been taken, will apply to any cases where maternity and adoption leave will end, or after, 6 April 2024 or, in the case of shared parental leave, where is starts on, or after, 6 April 2024.

The changes to the Regulations are still in draft form so could still be subject to changes.

Protecting workers from third party harassment

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will come into force in October 2024.

From October 2024 all employers will be under a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to prevent sex harassment in the workplace (including from third parties).  If employers fail to take reasonable steps to prevent sex harassment, then the Equality and Human Right Commission can take enforcement steps, plus any successful tribunal claim will be subject to a compensation uplift of up to 25%.

Other changes to watch out for in 2024

In addition to the legislation changes outlined above, don’t forget that with April comes all the usual changes we need to be mindful of:

2024 brings significant changes to employment law. Employers need to be proactive in understanding and implementing these updates to ensure compliance. The introduction of additional rights for flexible working, carers' leave, and protection from redundancy reflects the evolving needs of employees. Furthermore, the statutory duty to prevent harassment in the workplace, including from third parties, highlights the importance of creating safe and inclusive working environments.

As these updates take effect, employers should review their policies and procedures to align with the new legislation and support their workforce accordingly. Stay informed and prepared to navigate these changes for a smooth transition in the year ahead.

If you need any support, our team of expert employment lawyers is on hand to help.

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