What does 2024 hold for employment law in the UK this year?
2024 looks to be a busy year for employment law not only with some of the changes from 2023 set to be introduced, but also with changes that may follow the general election which is widely expected to be held in the second part of this year.
So what can we expect?
Changes in 2024:
From 6 April 2024, workers will be able to ask for flexible working from day one of employment (instead of having to complete 6 months of employment before putting in a request). Amongst the changes, an employer will be required to consult with an employee where a rejection to the request is considered, employees will be allowed to make two requests in a 12-month period instead of one and the period in which an employer must respond is reduced from three to two months.
From 6 April 2024, the new right to carer’s, which gives a week’s unpaid leave for a dependant, also comes into effect. Employers cannot decline a request but can in certain circumstances postpone the leave for up to a month in certain circumstances. Employers will need to think about policies and procedures to introduce this new right and ensure staff are aware of the changes.
From 6 April 2024, employees who are pregnant or returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave will be given extra protections. From this date, where a redundancy situation arises, the returning employee should be given priority for any redeployment opportunities. The changes will materially increase the number of employees with protection. These new protections will therefore need to be considered by employers who undertake redundancy/restructuring of their business after 6 April 2024.
Changes will come into effect in October 2024 which will require employers to take proactive steps to prevent employees from being sexually harassed at work. Guidance is awaited from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the steps employers are expected to take. Simply having a policy and providing training is unlikely to be enough. It is anticipated that employers will need to demonstrate that complaints are being dealt with seriously and additional steps are taken to avoid any further issues.
General election 2024
With the election looming, the Labour Party are currently ahead in the polls. If the Labour Party wins power, it has committed to introducing an Employment Rights Bill within its first 100 days of office. The proposals from Labour we know about are wide-ranging and include:
- a right not to be unfairly dismissed from the first day of employment (scrapping the current two-year qualifying period);
- a ban on fire and rehire as a way of changing an employee’s contractual terms;
- a ban on zero-hours contracts;
- further strengthening of harassment laws; and
- Extending statutory sick leave entitlement to all workers and providing it from the first day of sickness absence.
We have not yet seen the detailed proposals from the other parties but whatever happens as a result of the election, changes can be expected. Therefore, employers will need to be ready to review their contracts, policies and procedures to deal with any confirmed changes.
Other possible areas of interest to look out for are:
The new statutory rights around neonatal leave are not expected to come into force until April 2025 but further news on this may be issued as the Government is looking to find a way to bring forward the implementation date.
The Government has indicated that legislation to introduce a cap on the duration of non-compete clauses of up to 3 months will be introduced “when parliamentary time allows”. Nothing further has been said about this proposed change and it is unclear whether anything further will happen before the next election.
Our articles will keep you updated on the news as it develops and confirmed changes as they happen this year.