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UK employment law & HR developments – what to expect in 2024

UK employment law & HR developments – what to expect in 2024

(To access a video version of this briefing please click here to be taken to JCHR’s payroll and HR outsourcing website.)

While various amendments to the Equality Act will come into force in January, I’m going to skirt round most of these as they are mainly tweaks to the existing legislation, widening some definitions (e.g. the definition of ‘disability’) and clarifying certain protections (e.g. confirming breastfeeding is protected under the characteristic of sex).

Of more interest and impact to most employers will be the changes coming to holiday pay, national minimum wage, redundancy protection extensions, a new duty to prevent sexual harassment, flexible working, carers leave & TUPE……quite a long list, but I’ll cover each change and its impact in this update.

Before doing that that, I am minded there are two topics which could significantly impact employment law and the employment landscape more generally. 2024 will of course be election year, and while this may bring a change of government (impacting employment law), we also have in the looming spectre of Artificial Intelligence, and that could change the future of employment as we know it.

Change of government

Let’s start with a potential change of government. Labour, who many predict will win the next election, have published a green paper called a ‘A New Deal for Working People’ and in that they set out their new approach to employment rights. Amongst the changes:

  • Introduction of European style ‘Fair Pay Agreements’, introducing minimum terms and conditions of employment on a sector by sector basis.
  • Harmonisation of ‘worker’ and ‘employee’ status into a single category
  • Widening of day 1 employment rights including the right to claim unfair dismissal
  • Measures to improve access for trade unions to mobilise labour.

Many employers, even those fed up with the current government, will shake their heads in disbelief at what they will perceive to be yet more interference in the employment market, presenting new hurdles and risks for employers.

To read more about the topic, please click here.

Artificial Intelligence

Earlier in the year Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, wrote in the Times that his AI chat-bot was responding to a third of his customer’s emails, effectively doing the work of 250 people. Customers, said Jackson, gave an average 80% approval rating of their experience with the chat-bot….this compared with a 65% approval rating given to experienced, trained people.

It’s very clear that AI is capable of doing a great many of the jobs in the economy currently carried out by people, and its also often capable of carrying out those tasks better and more safely.

Given a free rein, AI could cause the sort of unemployment that could completely change the employment dynamic. For the last few years the UK has been in high employment, with employers competing for scarce applicants, and unfilled jobs regularly exceeding 1 million.

Employee’s expectations of employers have consequently been high, and our reaction to covid has created new expectations of flexibility too, this has been combined with steep wage inflation.

If AI is allowed to reach its true potential. the future may see the balance of power in the employment relationship swing back towards employers, as more candidates chase fewer jobs.

UK employee relations, could there be trouble ahead?

But will government, in particular an incoming Labour government, try and stop AI in its tracks? The Labour Party’s main backers the trade unions are no fans of job-threatening technology, and will seek assurances and agreements to preserve jobs over the technical advantages AI offers.

Labour could well find itself in an invidious position, on the one hand wanting to harness the economic benefits AI could bring, on the other facing escalating labour disputes brought by the very trade unions the Labour Party is instrumental in strengthening.

With the pace of development of AI technology and an election around the corner, this conundrum is closer than you may think. There may indeed be trouble ahead.

Employment law developments

Placing the crystal ball to one side for a moment, there are some things we know, or nearly know, will manifest for employers in the coming year. As usual most of the changes will happen in April, but first a reminder of changes to the prevention of illegal working regime in January.

January 22, 2024: Preventing Illegal Working – New Code of Practice

The new code comes with increased fines – £45,000 for a first offence, up to £60,000 per illegal worker for employers who are repeat offenders.

Employers should review their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these changes.

Employment law changes April 2024

01 April 2024: Changes in Holiday Pay Calculations and Rolled up Holiday Pay

  • Rolled up holiday pay will be permitted for certain workers, primarily those with irregular hours or who work part of the year.
  • Alternatively, employers may opt to calculate holiday pay for these workers at 12.07%, applicable to holiday years starting after April 1, 2024.

These changes largely stem from a case law decision that resulted peculiarly in some part year workers receiving proportionately more holiday pay than their full-time counterparts. While many employment & HR advisors encouraged their clients to adopt convoluted formula to accommodate the impact of that case, myHRdept took a policy decision to recommend clients to continue to use 12.07% as the calculator – we predicted (correctly) that legislators would fix the problem.

Historically rolled up holiday pay (where an employer pays a supplement for holiday, as opposed to workers taking periods of paid holiday) has been unlawful. The decision to permit it in the case of part year or irregular workers is a sensible step.

06 April 2024: Increases to the Living and Minimum Wage

The National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) will see significant increases. For the first time, the top rate (NLW) will apply to workers aged 21 and over, and will see an increase of 9.8% in the headline rate which will be £11.44 per hour.

Other rates increase by up to 21.2% – for employers who pay minimum wage for, in particular, a young workforce, 2024 is going to prove an expensive year.

To see all of the new rates, please see our earlier article (or watch the video)  by clicking here.

06 April 2024: Carer’s Leave

A new right for employees with dependent care responsibility for one week’s unpaid leave each year to provide or arrange care for a dependant. The leave is unpaid, and can be postponed by employers if the timing of the requested dates would cause operational difficulty.

06 April 2024 – enhanced protection from redundancy

Currently women on maternity leave are given special protection from being made redundant, from April 24 this will be extended to include the period of pregnancy and for 6 months following their return to work after maternity. Similar rights will extend to adoptive parents and those taking 6 or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave.

06 April 2024: Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements

Changes to the right to request flexible working arrangements are expected to take affect from April too, the changes include:

  • the right for employees to apply from day one of employment
  • the right to make two requests in each 12-month period (currently just one request in 12 months is permitted)
  • the requirement for employers to consult with employees if they are thinking of rejecting the request
  • the reduction in the period required for the employer to respond to the request from 3 months to 2
  • the removal of the requirement for the employee to set out in their request information about how the request could be accommodated.

01/07/2024 – TUPE

TUPE regulations are expected to be amended to allow for employers who have less than 50 staff, or employers of any size who are proposing to transfer less than 10 staff, to consult with employees directly. Under existing regulations employers often have to elect representatives for this purpose, although, again, myHRdept have always adopted a more pragmatic approach when advising clients on small scale or low impact transfers.

Around September 2024

We’re expecting a new right for employees with unpredictable terms and conditions (many zero hours workers would be included here) to apply for greater predictability of, in particular, working hours.

October 2024 – Sexual Harassment, Duty to Prevent

The national press and myHRdept have featured numerous articles concerning sexual harassment in the workplace in 2023, offences nearly always committed by older more experienced males on younger junior female staff.

We’re expecting October to bring a new statutory duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, and should they fail to do so, any tribunal award may be uplifted by 25%.

Through the year (2023) we have released training and communication materials to enable myHRdept & JCHR clients to quickly and easily help raise awareness of sexual harassment – our videos and resources have been accessed thousands of times, and will remain free for our clients to use – we will be issuing refreshed versions for 2024 in good time for the new legislation.

No date yet 2024 – Restrictive Covenants

We are expecting a 3-month statutory cap on non-compete clauses. These clauses often feature in restrictive covenants contained in employment contracts. Over recent times myHRdept have been advising clients to move towards shorter restricted periods which are more likely to be enforceable.

No date yet – distribution of tips

One to watch for our licensed retail clients, the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 aims to ensure that 100% of tips are distributed fairly and transparently among workers, we are awaiting a draft statutory code of practice.

HR support from myHRdept & JCHR

Employment law and employment practice are evolving beasts. myHRdept (who also provide HR support services via JCHR’s combined payroll and HR outsourcing services) offer help with all employment law matters, but better still our packages include full HR outsourcing, including drafting and maintaining employment compliance (contracts and policies), case management and HR administrative support.

Our clients include smaller SMEs who outsource all of their HR and payroll requirements, and larger clients who outsource employee relations & employment law matters & who rely on our advisory services to help and guide their internal HR teams.

For a no obligation assessment of how partial or full outsourcing could help your organisation, please contact us & we’ll be happy to arrange a Teams meeting, or attend in person if you prefer.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or contact us and we’ll call you back.

Homepage: www.myhrdept.co.uk

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