As we start a new year, a raft of new legislation is on the horizon, most of which is poised to come into force in Spring 2024. As it can be difficult for businesses, especially small and medium sized, to keep up to date with incoming changes, we have summarised some key employment law updates, of which employers should be keeping abreast.
Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023
Employees will receive a ‘day one’ right to 12 weeks of leave if their child is receiving neonatal care. However, the right to receive neonatal care pay will require 26 weeks service minimum. Leave does not need to be taken in one block and can be taken in individual days or half days. Neonatal care must have started within 28 days of birth and last for at least 7 days. The leave must be taken within 68 weeks of the child’s birth.
Carer’s Leave Act 2023
This act allows carers to take one week’s leave in any 12-month period to look after a dependant with a long term care need, such as illness, injury, disability or old age. Leave can also be taken in individual days or half days.
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023
This act will improve current flexible working rights, allowing employees to make two formal flexible working requests in a 12 month period. Employers will need to consult with employees before rejecting any such applications and will have only two months to consider and decide the outcome. Employers should note that the government will not change the eight statutory grounds for rejecting a flexible working request. It has also said that it will introduce secondary legislation to make the right available to employees from day one of their employment.
Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023
This act will ensure that all tips and service charges are allocated fairly between its workers (not just employees). Employers will also have to have a written policy on how it deals with tips and keep records of all tips and service charges received for three years.
Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023
Currently, protection is given to employees on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave – in that they have a right to be offered a suitable alternative role, if one is available, before they are made redundant and must be preferred for the role, all other things remaining equal. This new act will extend this protection to pregnant employees and employees recently returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, although the regulations needed to implement the new entitlement have not yet been published.
Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023
This act introduces a new statutory right for workers (including agency and zero hours workers) and employees to request a more predictable working pattern. Also covered are those on a fixed-term contract of 12 months or less, as long as they have worked at the employer for at least 26 weeks. However, given the aim of the legislation is to address the issue of ‘one-sided flexibility’ experienced by workers in the gig economy, workers will not have had to have worked continuously during that 26 week period.
Worker protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2020) Act 2023
Finally, legislation on the duty to prevent sexual harassment is expected to be in place from October 2024. From the end of next year, all employers will be under a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to stop sexual harassment happening in the workplace. If reasonable steps have not been taken to prevent sexual harassment and an employee is sexually harassed and successfully brings a claim, 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%.
Business owners and HR managers need to keep on top of new legislation and would do well to consider the implications and practicalities for their business sooner rather than later. This is not only to reduce legal risk, but also to ensure employees and workers can benefit from any new entitlements, which will help foster a workplace culture which promotes fairness and wellbeing.
This article was written by Eleanor Parkes, and employment lawyer, and was first published in People Management in December 2023
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.