Step into 2024

Step into 2024

14th December 2023

2023 has undoubtedly been a busy year in the employment law space. But, as we bid adieu to this year, it is time to look to what 2024 will bring. In this Christmas pun-filled article (apologies in advance), we explore some of the key anticipated legislation to be implemented next year, grouped into four key categories below. 

Spoiler alert – if the government plans continue as expected, then get ready to unwrap a gift of employment law changes in the coming year as the legal landscape gears up for a merry makeover! 

Feliz NaviDAD – family leave 

There are a couple of new Acts which will, once recent draft regulations laid before Parliament under those Acts are approved, create new employee rights from 6 April 2024:

  • The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 and draft regulations, will introduce a new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave of one week's unpaid leave in each 12-month rolling period to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.
  • The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, and draft regulations, will extend the existing right - to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (if available) before being made redundant during maternity, adoption or shared parental leave - to “during or after” such periods of leave and to “during or after” a protected period of pregnancy. 

We will be writing about these rights in more detail in our January newsletter – so keep a look out for that New Year’s present!

  • In addition, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 will introduce a new type of statutory leave (and, subject to qualifying criteria, pay) for employees who have a parental or other personal relationship with a child who is receiving or has received neonatal care (i.e. medical or palliative care after birth). However, much of the detail of this right is still to be set out and recent commentary suggests that several sets of regulations will be required after which an implementation date will be set, but this is not anticipated before April 2025.

No immediate action needs to be taken in relation to these upcoming new rights, however employers should start to familiarise themselves with the changes prior to their implementation. Updates to handbooks, new policies and procedures, and training on the new rights among HR personnel will need to be considered for when these changes come into force.

I’ll be WFH for the holidays – working time and flexible working 

Significant new rules relating to holiday entitlement and working time records are coming into effect on 1 January 2024 under The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023. Notably, there is an entirely new holiday regime for irregular hours workers and part-year workers which will apply to holiday leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024. Employers should review their contracts, policies and pay practices to ensure compliance with these new rules (for more information, see our articles here and here). 

Changes to the flexible working request regime and a new regime for requesting a predictable working pattern are anticipated as follows:

  • The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 proposes to make procedural changes to how employees and employers make / review flexible working requests.  Recent draft regulations laid before Parliament will also make the right to make a flexible working request a “day one” right from 6 April 2024. At the time of writing, further commencement regulations for the procedural changes to flexible working requests are still required – but watch this space for updates! 
  • The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will create a new statutory right for workers and agency workers who have a lack of predictability in relation to any part of their working pattern to request a more predictable work pattern, subject to meeting qualifying criteria. Further regulations are required to specify details and to bring the rights into force, it is anticipated that this will be in early Autumn 2024.

ACAS has also already published draft codes of practice (available here and here) on these new and amended rights. However, once in force employers will need to amend or create new policies and ensure HR staff and managers are trained on these new rights and processes. 

Deck the Halls with Pay and Pensions – pay and pension 

  • Under the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023, new rules will place obligations on employers in respect of qualifying tips, gratuities and service changes. Including that the total amount of all qualifying tips, gratuities, and service charges paid at or attributable to a place of business is to be allocated fairly by the employer between workers (and eligible agency workers). New procedures and policies should be put in place where applicable when the legislation is implemented - expected in May 2024 (see our earlier article here). 
  • Additionally, the categories of eligible workers who employers should enrol into a qualifying occupational or personal pension scheme is set to expand following the Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023. The date of implementation is not yet known as further regulations will be required to bring the Act into force. However, it is worth employers bearing this in mind for future cost budgeting.

You Better Watch Out – new or updated offences and duties for employers

Other legislation, which sets out new or updated offences that employers may be liable for or new or updated duties for which employers must follow, is also forthcoming:

  • From 1 January 2024, principles of EU and domestic case law relating to the Equality Act 2010 will be codified and in force under the draft Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (see our article here).
  • From 22 January 2024, employers in the UK will face penalties increasing from up to £15,000 to up to £45,000 per illegal worker they employ for a first breach. Repeated breaches will result in steep fines of up to £60,000 per illegal worker – up from a current £20,000. The Home Office has also recently published a new draft statutory code of practice (see our previous article here).
  • For TUPE transfers which take place on or after 1 July 2024, employers will be able to inform and consult with employees directly where there are no existing employee representatives in place for small employers with fewer than 50 employees and for small transfers of fewer than 10 transferring employees (see our article here).  
  • The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will come into force in October 2024, placing a proactive duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees in the course of their employment (see our article here).  
  • The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 will (among other things outside the employment law scope) introduce a new failure to prevent a fraud offence. This will be in respect of large organisations only and the government must issue guidance before the offence comes into force.

Employers (as appropriate) should ensure policies and practices are updated and consider providing training in these areas to ensure compliance with and understanding of these new requirements.

Tidings of transformation: other potential areas for change over 2024…

Other notable areas in which we may see further developments and to keep a watchful eye include:

  • The government’s response to its “consultation on measures to reform post-termination non-compete clauses in contracts of employment” set out the intention to limit the duration of non-compete restrictions in employment contracts to three months “when Parliamentary time allows”. Will this legislation be introduced? We have been tracking the developments in this space (see here).
  • Potential minor changes to paternity leave have been promised in “future legislation”. This is following the government’s response to its consultation on Parental Leave and Pay, to permit fathers and partners to take the current entitlement in two separate blocks at any time in the year after birth or placement for adoption. It also promises a reduction in the notice requirements to be given to employers which is more in line with the length of leave.
  • We are awaiting the government’s response to its consultation on its draft code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement (or “fire and rehire”) and the word on the grapevine is that this is anticipated in Spring 2024 (see here).
  • One area which received attention in the recent King’s Speech, was data protection and the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (carried over from the previous parliamentary session) - one to keep a watchful eye on.
  • Continuing ongoing developments in trade union issues (see here).
  • Also, we cannot ignore that there may be further legal developments following the passing of Retained EU Law Revocation and Reform Act 2023 earlier this year.

It’s not all certain though, and there may be New Year surprises yet to come as the above changes and potential future developments are set against the backdrop of the impending general election, which must take place by 28 January 2025 at the latest. We know better than to try to make any firm predictions about the ever-changing political landscape in the UK after recent years so will simply note that, while the above changes are anticipated, this could all change in the event of an election. 2024 is set to be a corker!

If you have any questions regarding any of the developments in this article, please contact your usual GQ|Littler contact. In respect of training enquiries, please reach out to Natasha Adom.

*This article focuses on developments for England, Wales and Scotland.