The new HR laws expected in 2024 (and how to prepare)

  • Employment Law
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Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

The government has confirmed at least 10 new laws for 2024 on top of the usual yearly law changes, like national minimum wage.

We expect to see changes around leave entitlement, pay and benefits, working patterns, and more. So to make sure you understand how all these updates will affect you and the next steps your business needs to take to prepare, here’s a roundup of what to expect in the year ahead.

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You’ll need to lay the groundwork for new leave entitlements like…

Statutory carer’s leave – coming in April 2024

The government has confirmed that from 6th April, there will be a new law that gives your employees the right to take statutory carer’s leave. This will be a right that eligible employees have from their first day on the job.

Employees will qualify for statutory carer’s leave if they care for a dependent with a long-term care need. And if any of your employees are eligible, they’ll be able to take a maximum of one week of unpaid leave a year to look after someone who relies on them for care.

They’ll be able to take this leave flexibly but will have to give a minimum amount of notice. This is will either be double the amount of time they've requested to take or three days - whichever option is longer.

You also won’t be able to refuse a carer’s leave request but will be able to postpone if the leave would seriously disrupt your business operations.

Statutory neonatal care leave – expected in October 2024

Next up, there’s going to be a new type of statutory leave for parents of (or those who have a responsibility for) babies in neonatal care.

It means employees who have babies in neonatal care will be able to have more time off work, on top of maternity and paternity leave. This will be a right they have from day one on the job.

To give some context around why this is coming in, two weeks in hospital could use up your employee’s entire paternity leave. So, this is a way of giving those individuals more time to spend with their babies once they’re out of hospital.

Employees will only be able to get a maximum of 12 weeks of neonatal leave. And if your employee is eligible, you’ll also need to pay them for this leave (which will be the same rate you would pay for maternity pay).

If you’re affected by these issues, call for instant advice today

Prepare for employees to ask for changes to their working patterns because of…

New rules around flexible working requests – starting from April 2024

From 6th April, the government will grant employees a day one right to make a flexible working request. Previously, they could only make one flexible working request a year – and they had to have worked for you for 26 weeks before they could do this.

There will be other new rules around flexible working requests too, although the government has yet to confirm when these will all land. Under these new rules, employees will be able to make two requests in a year. They will also no longer have to explain the effect they think this change in working might have on you.

When this update comes in, you’ll have a legal duty to consult with your staff about their requests and make a decision about any request within two months of receiving it. The reasons for refusing a flexible working request will stay the same.

A new right to request a more predictable working pattern - expected in September 2024

This is a brand new right for certain workers. It means that workers with unstable or unpredictable working hours will have a legal right to ask for more predictable working patterns.

This includes zero hour workers, agency workers, employees and those on fixed term contracts lasting less than one year.

We expect that eligible workers will be able to ask for more predictable hours once they have 26 weeks of service or more. We also expect that you will have to accept any requests unless you have a legal reason to refuse.

If you’re affected by these issues, call for instant advice today

You’ll need to take more steps to prevent harassment and discrimination because there’ll be…

Extended legal protection from redundancy for pregnant staff – coming in April 2024

Currently, employees on maternity leave have more rights and protection against redundancy than other staff. And from 6th April 2024, pregnant employees will have those rights too.

Meaning, if you were ever having to consider redundancies, you would need to take steps to also help keep your pregnant staff in work before anyone else. Failing to follow this could lead to possible sex discrimination claims, unfair dismissal claims and uncapped compensation.

So, you will need consider your pregnant employees for suitable alternative roles before other employees. Your pregnant employees will then continue to have this legal protection from redundancy.

This is from the moment they tell work about their pregnancy up until 18 months after the birth of their child. The same protection will also apply to those who take maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

A pro-active duty to prevent sexual harassment at work – expected in October 2024

Next on the list we have the new Worker Protection Act. Which means next year, you will need to take reasonable steps to help prevent sexual harassment in your workplace by law.

Currently, you are legally liable if your employee makes a claim for harassment and you can’t show that you did anything to help prevent it. And yet, there’s no legal requirement to take proactive steps to prevent harassment (like having a policy or giving training). While it’s strongly recommended, it’s not a requirement.

But under this new law, you will be in legal trouble if your business doesn’t take active steps to prevent harassment. That’s whether an incident has happened or not.

Your employees will also be able to make official complaints to the Equality and Human Rights commission at any point if they see you haven’t taken any preventative steps.

Meaning, you may have to prove that you do take steps even when there isn’t a claim or allegation against you.

And if you can’t prove it, you would likely to have to pay hefty compensation – which tribunals will have a right to increase by up to 25%.

We’re not finished yet. Next, you’ll need to change how you handle certain types of pay when…

There’s a ban on withholding tips from workers – coming in July 2024

If you work in the hospitality industry, this one is particularly relevant for you. Once this law is in place, you will not be able to keep any money staff receive as tips. You will also need to have a written policy on how you intend to fairly allocate tips to workers.

Calculating holiday pay and leave – for leave years starting on or after April 2024

Currently, you have to give holiday pay at the time that your staff take annual leave. You’re not allowed to include holiday pay in your worker’s hourly rate (also known as giving “rolled-up holiday pay”).

But now the government has confirmed that businesses will be able to provide rolled up holiday pay again – but only for staff who work irregular hours, like zero-hour workers and part-year workers.

This means you’ll be able to calculate annual leave for irregular hour workers using the 12.07% accrual method (which has previously been banned).

National minimum wage rises – coming in April 2024

National minimum wage rises every year but in April 2024, we’re set to see more than just the standard change.

Currently, workers aged 23 and over receive the highest rate of pay for national minimum wage. There’s a lower rate for workers who are 21 and 22. However, this band is going to disappear - pushing 21 and 22 year olds into the highest band bracket.

So here are the new rates you’ll need to make note of…

  • For those over compulsory school age but not yet 18 - £6.40 per hour (up from £5.28).
  • For apprentices aged 19 and under (or 19 and over and in their first year of their apprenticeship) - £6.40 per hour (up from £5.28)
  • For those aged 18 to 20 - £8.60 per hour (up from £7.49)
  • National living wage (anyone aged 21 and over) - £11.44 per hour (from £10.42)

You’ll need to make sure you pay your staff the correct wage if they earn on or around the national minimum wage. Otherwise, underpaying (even accidentally) could lead to you having to fork out hefty compensation and landing yourself a spot on the government’s name and shame list.

Other changes expected in 2024 also include…

  • New minimum staffing levels for key emergency sectors during strikes.
  • Changes to statutory maternity pay and sick pay rates.
  • Changes to the age criteria for being auto-enrolled in a pension scheme.

What are your next steps?

With so many updates flying in, you’ll need to make sure you:

  • Review your procedures

You’ll need to review your procedures around leave, flexible working, harassment, redundancy, tips – any that are affected by the updates. Then, amend them in line with the new legal requirements. Because you’ll need to be ready to deal with employee requests and any incidents quickly and in line with the latest rules.

  • Update your policies and employee handbooks

You’ll need to make sure your policies and handbooks all cover the new updates and how your business will manage them.

  • Create new policies

You should create new, separate policies with information around each update and clear reporting procedures for staff to follow.

  • Offer training

It’s a good idea to organise staff training to re-establish codes of conduct and how to manage all these new processes. Managers will need to understand how to manage new leave requests and conduct issues promptly and in line with the law.

  • Update your software

You’ll need to make sure any software you use for managing leave requests can manage requests for new types of leave.

We understand this is an overwhelming amount to deal with. So, if you have any questions or concerns about what you need to do to prepare for these imminent legal updates, don’t panic. Get in touch with your adviser.

Keeping your documentation and processes legally up to date isn’t just for your legal safety, but it also shows you’re committed to providing the highest level of business support. And this will help you to continue attracting and retaining top talent.

With Peninsula, you’ll never miss an update. We’re here to guide you through every complex change and eliminate your risk.

So if you have any questions, we’re here to help. Just tap below to book a free call with an HR expert today.

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