Key HR and employment law changes in 2024 – are you ready?
Whilst recruitment and retention remain a key issue for care providers in 2024, it is also a year of significant change in HR and employment law.
Here is a summary of the key changes you need to prepare for this year.
1. Holiday entitlement and pay
The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 came into force on 1 January 2024 and take effect for holiday years beginning after 1 April 2024. They reverse the decision of the Supreme Court in the Harpur Trust case which held that irregular hours and part-year workers were entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday irrespective of the number of hours worked. The new laws permit holiday entitlement for irregular hours and part-year workers to be calculated at a rate of 12.07% of the hours worked. You also have the option to pay these workers rolled-up holiday pay, rather than paying for holiday when it is taken.
Action: Consider who in your workforce meets the definition of a part year or irregular hours worker under the regulations, decide which method of calculating holiday pay you will adopt (ensuring your payroll teams are involved in any changes and that they are reflected in your HR and payroll processes, systems and policies), and review and update your employment contracts for irregular hours and part-year workers.
2. Flexible Working
From 6 April 2024, key changes will be introduced to flexible working laws including: a new legal duty to consult with employees about alternatives to their flexible working request; employees are no longer required to set out how their request would impact the business; two requests can be made in any 12-month period; and you are required to respond to requests within two months. Acas has also published a new Code of Practice on flexible working requests.
Action: Update flexible working policy and internal processes.
3. Predictable working
It is anticipated that from September 2024, workers will be given a new statutory right to request a predictable working pattern following Parliament’s approval of the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023. The new statutory right provides workers with the right to apply for a change in their working pattern if their hours are unpredictable. If your staff don’t work set days and hours or are on zero hours contracts, you could receive many requests to move to more predictable working hours. Eligible workers will have the right to submit two requests in any 12-month period, there are a limited number of business reasons to refuse a request and a decision must be given within one month.
Action: Assess how this new right could affect your current working arrangements and contractual arrangements and introduce a new predictable working request policy.
4. Carer’s Leave
From 6 April 2024 employees will have a new legal entitlement to take up to one week’s unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need. It will apply to all employees from the start of their employment.
Action: Introduce new Carer’s Leave Policy.
5. Statutory paternity leave
From 6 April 2024, partners will be able to take statutory paternity leave within the first year after childbirth (rather than the first 8 weeks) and will have the option to take the leave in two non-consecutive week blocks, as opposed to the current requirement to take it as either one week or two consecutive weeks. Similar rights will be in place for those who adopt. There is also a shortened 28-day notice period to notify employers about the intention to take statutory paternity leave.
Action: Review and update your paternity leave policy.
6. Sexual harassment protection
From October 2024, employers must be more proactive in their efforts to reduce workplace sexual harassment and will be subject to a new legal requirement to take “reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment of employees and workers. A failure to take reasonable steps can lead to compensation awarded by an employment tribunal for sexual harassment claims being increased by up to 25%. A new code of practice will be issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission providing guidance on the steps you should take.
Action: Develop an anti-harassment strategy to show compliance with the new duty and monitor and record progress, review and update anti-harassment policies, update induction process to demonstrate your anti-harassment stance, provide regular training to staff on what harassment is and how to avoid it, ensure that you have robust procedures for handling harassment complaints promptly and fairly, and have an open culture where staff feel able to raise concerns.
7. Extended legal protection from redundancy during family leave
From 6 April 2024, redundancy protections will be extended for those on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave. Employees will be entitled to suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation, in preference to other employees at risk, not just during pregnancy, but for 18 months after the expected week of childbirth. Similar protections are in place for those on adoption leave and shared parental leave.
Action: Review and update maternity, adoption and shared parental leave policies.
8. TUPE information and consultation
For TUPE transfers taking place on or after 1 July 2024 the exemption from informing and consulting with elected employee representative will be extended to businesses with fewer than 50 employees (currently its 10) or where there are fewer than 10 employees transferring.
9. National Minimum Wage increases
From 1 April 2024, for those aged 21 and over, there will be 9.8% increase to the National Living Wage (NLW) to £11.44 an hour. The NLW is currently the statutory minimum wage for workers aged 23 and over, although this threshold will be reduced to those aged 21 and over from April 2024. Different minimum wage rates will continue to apply to 18–20-year-olds (£8.60), as well as 16-17 years old and apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of an apprenticeship (£6.40).
10. Immigration reforms
This year will see changes being made to reduce the level of legal migration, with care workers not being permitted to bring their dependants to the UK. This is likely to reduce the number of overseas care workers coming to the UK at a time when there is a significant shortage of staff.
With considerable concerns having been reported about modern slavery practices and non-compliance with sponsor licence requirements, in 2024 it will be critical for providers to audit their recruitment practices, re-fresh their compliance training, and ensure they are operating ethically to avoid significant penalties and reputational damage.
Action: Review overseas recruitment practices, arrange refresher compliance training and consider arranging a mock Home Office audit.