Important Employment Law Changes in 2024

Early 2024 promises to be a busy time for changes in Employment Law, with a particular focus on family friendly policies. It’s particularly busy because the Government did not issue an employment bill in 2022/23, so much of the legislation that was being proposed and under discussion has waited until 2024 for implementation.

The first definite change we outline is to the statutory right to make a Flexible Working request. Currently, employees have to work with their employer for 26 weeks before they can make a statutory request to work flexibly. The change, which will come into effect on the 6th April 2024 will confer the right to make a statutory request from day one of employment. There are some other changes, which we covered in our recent Breakfast Briefing, linked here.

From the same date, employees who care for another person – the definition of who that person can be is relatively wide, effectively encompassing ‘any person who reasonably relies on you for care – will have a statutory right to one week leave with the implementation of the Carers Act, which can be unpaid to provide care where it is required. Carers Leave is also a day one right. From a procedural perspective, employers should consider the following;

  • Employees using the leave must take a minimum of half a working day at a time; a working day meaning the employee’s usual working pattern. There is no need for the leave to be used on consecutive days either. Employees could therefore take five separate days over a 12-month rolling period.
  • Employees are required to provide notice, although this does not need to be in writing. The notice must include the fact that the employee is entitled to take carer’s leave and the day(s) or part of a day that will be taken.
  • Employees will be required to give notice which is either twice the length of time being requested, or three days, whichever is the longest. It is open to employers to waive the notice requirement provided the employee is otherwise eligible to take carer’s leave.

From the same date, employees who are pregnant or returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave will gain priority status for redeployment opportunities in a redundancy situation. The changes will materially increase the numbers of employees with protection (for example, fathers taking just 6 weeks’ of shared parental leave will become eligible for 18 months of protection). These changes will impact on the period of pregnancy when the employer is informed of the pregnancy on or after 6th April 2024.

Also in April 2024, the government is expected to make minor changes to paternity leave. This will allow paternity leave to be taken at any time in the first year and to be split up into two separate blocks of one week. The current six-month qualifying period, overall limit of two weeks’ leave and low levels of statutory payment will continue, however, so this does not make paternity leave into a much bigger right.

Looking further forward into later 2024, the Worker Protection Act comes into effect, requiring employers to take proactive steps to prevent their employees from being sexually harassed at work. Ahead of the October 2024 commencement date, the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be publishing new guidance or a new Code of Practice on what proactive steps employers. are expected to take. What the EHRC say (whether in new guidance or a new Code) will be critical in setting the bar for employers. This will put much more focus on our measures to prevent, and our means of dealing with sexual harassment at work, and a much greater emphasis on pre-emptive measures and analysis of the impact of those protection measures. The e EHRC can take enforcement action against employers, and that a claim is successful an ET can award an uplift of 25% on any compensation awarded.

All of these changes will require handbooks and policies to be updated; as ever, we are here to support, so if you take our services and need assistance in anything noted here, please let us know.