Navigating The Employment Landscape: Key Changes In Spring 2024

Employers must reassess contracts and policies to comply with new employment laws effective April 2024, including changes to holiday pay, tribunal compensation limits, flexible working rights, redundancy protection, paternity and carer's leave, and a new code on dismissal and re-engagement.
UK Employment and HR
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As legislative adjustments in employment law persistently emerge, employers are advised to regularly reassess their contracts and policies to ensure compliance with the evolving legal landscape. We outline the upcoming changes set to take effect from April 2024.

Changes to holiday pay for staff who work irregular hours and those who only work part of the year – 1 April 2024

Reversing the decision in Harpur Trust v Brazel, the government opts for a 12.07% calculation of hours worked for holiday pay for staff with irregular working patterns (and this includes live-in domestic workers).

This change, extending to irregular hours and part-year contracts, eliminates exemptions for live-in domestic workers, aligning with the Thakali v Puthenveettil ruling that deems the domestic worker exemption inconsistent with Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Irregular hours workers and part-year workers, defined by variable paid hours and periodic non-working weeks, will have the option of rolled-up holiday pay, but this is not lawful for full-year or regular-hour workers.

Calculations involve the average salary over the preceding 52 weeks, inclusive of regular overtime payments and performance-based commission. These changes prompt a need for employers to assess the impact on staff and review employment contracts related to holiday pay calculations before implementation.

Increase in Tribunal Compensation Limits – 6 April 2024

The government has announced new compensation limits for tribunal awards and other statutory payments. The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has increased from £105,707 to £115,115, while the limit on a week's pay has gone up from £643 to £700.

Additionally, the government has introduced other figures, such as the minimum basic award for certain types of unfair dismissal rising from £7,836 to £8,533, and the statutory guarantee pay increasing from £35 to £38 per day.

Flexible Working – 6 April 2024

Employees will gain the 'day one right' to request flexible working without the previous requirement of 26 weeks' service. They will be able to make two requests in any 12-month period and employers will need to consider each request and respond within two months. However, this is still only a 'right to request' flexible working and so employers will still be able to turn down requests they cannot accommodate for one of 8 business reasons.

Redundancy protection for staff from pregnancy and for 18 months after a baby is born – 6 April 2024

Pregnant employees and those on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave will be shielded from redundancy for 18 months after their baby is born. If the employee is at risk of redundancy, employers must offer suitable alternative employment during this period, prioritising affected employees over others for redundancy. Failure to do so may result in claims for automatically unfair dismissal and possible unlawful discrimination claims.

For individuals on shared parental leave who haven't taken maternity or adoption leave, they need to take a continuous leave of at least six weeks for these rules to apply after the shared parental leave ends. If the six-week requirement is not met, the rules will apply during the shared parental leave period.

Paternity leave – 6 April 2024

Parents of children born after 6 April 2024 gain the right to take paternity leave in two separate one-week blocks within 52 weeks after birth or adoption, requiring only 28 days' notice.

Carer's leave – 6 April 2024

Employees with caregiving responsibilities gain a 'day one' right to one week of unpaid carer's leave annually. This applies to dependents with long-term care needs, encompassing disabilities, illnesses exceeding three months, or old age. The purpose is for employees to arrange care for their dependents.

Requests for this leave can vary from consecutive or non-consecutive half or full days up to a week. Employers can postpone a request but must ensure it is taken within one month of the initially requested start date. Employees are safeguarded from detriment or dismissal during carer's leave, and all terms and conditions, excluding remuneration, remain intact.

Pending finalisation, the Carer's Leave Regulations 2023, stemming from the Carer's Leave Act 2023, allows employees to take one week of unpaid leave annually for dependent care. This can be taken in segments, with a minimum period of half a day. Carers must provide notice at least twice as long as the requested leave, with a minimum of three days. Employers can postpone leave for up to a month if it significantly disrupts business. Employees retain the right to return to their job after the leave, protected from detrimental actions or unfair dismissal.

New statutory code of practice on dismissal and re-engagement – final version of code expected in the Spring

The government has responded to the sudden mass redundancies at P&O Ferries by proposing a draft Code of Practice on Dismissal and Re-engagement. This aims to address "fire and rehire" practices. The Code outlines a process for employers and encourages employers to view dismissal and re-engagement as a last resort, with potential compensatory uplifts acting as an incentive for careful consideration.

The potential compensatory uplift in the Code serves as an incentive for employers to carefully consider procedures before resorting to dismissal and re-engagement.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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