In the wake of a year of important changes to employment law, HR leaders across the UK must brace themselves for another wave of legislative shifts poised to alter the landscape in the coming 12 months, says Leah Edwards.
These laws have all been passed this year and we’re expecting them to come into force across 2024.
We know it may not be the news employers were hoping for, especially given the current challenges posed by the cost-of-living crisis, inflation and unprecedented wage growth gripping the UK. But amid these pressing concerns, HR leaders play a pivotal role in steering organisations through these legislative changes.
In this climate, it is even more important that HR leaders stay vigilant and proactive to navigate the upcoming legislative shifts effectively.
We outline below some of the employment laws we anticipate will come into force next year.
The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act2023
This new legislation will give workers the right to be given tips, gratuities, and service charges in full, without deduction. It also imposes an obligation to ensure that they’re dealt with fairly by ensuring that several conditions are met.
This includes that tips are allocated fairly between workers at that place of business; tips are paid to workers no later than the end of the month following the month in which the payment was made by the customer; and employers have a clear written policy on dealing with tips.
It will also mean companies have to keep a record setting out how tips, gratuities and service charges are paid. These records must be kept for three years.
Finally, it will mean an employee can complain to an employment tribunal if an employer fails to comply.
We do not have a confirmed date of when this Act will come into force but it is expected at some point in early 2024.
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023
This implements changes to the rules on flexible working requests. Again, these changes are expected to come into play in the first half of 2024.
An employee will no longer have to explain what effect, if any, they think their requested change will have and how this should be dealt with. There will be an entitlement to make two requests in any 12-month period; and the time for an employer to come to a decision on a request will be reduced from three to two months.
Furthermore, employers will have to consult with employees before rejecting a flexible working request. Although this is not a requirement under the existing regime, this is deemed good practice and is recommended in any event to mitigate against possible discrimination claims.
The government will also make this a day-one right. Presently, employees must have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment to make a request.
Whilst there is no need for employers to take immediate action ahead of the implementation of the changes, it would be worthwhile preparing for the broadening of the rules on flexible working requests. We recommend amending any flexible working procedure now to ensure compliance with the new regulations; and rolling out training to managers so they are aware of the changes and to ensure requests are dealt with correctly.
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023
Predicted to come into force in April 2024, this will mean one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees who have a dependant with a long-term care need. Employees will be eligible to apply for this type of leave from the first day of employment.
The leave can be used for any type of care, such as taking someone to hospital appointments or assisting with financial matters. There is no restriction on how the leave is used, but the usual qualifying criteria for ‘dependants’ will apply.
4. The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023
We’re anticipating this Act to come into force in September 2024. It will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give workers and agency workers the right to request a predictable work pattern.
The Equality Act (Amendment) Regulations 2023
Various amendments are due to come into force on 1 January 2024. The intention is to retain various EU derived rights which would otherwise be lost from the UK exiting the EU.
Some of the changes include:
- Expanding the definition of disability to include a person’s ability to participate fully and effectively in working life on an equal basis with others.
- Enabling claims of indirect discrimination to be brought by claimants without a protected characteristic, i.e. via their association with somebody who does have a protected characteristic.
- Permitting the special treatment of women in connection with maternity (currently special treatment is only afforded to women in connection with pregnancy or childbirth).
- Extending the protected period which currently covers the duration of the pregnancy and any statutory maternity leave period. The amendments will extend the protection to cover unfavourable treatment after the protected period where the treatment is because of the pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness during the protected period.
Non-compete clauses in employment contracts expected to be scrapped
Finally, the Government has announced plans to cap the length of non-compete clauses in employment and worker contracts to three months. Currently, these clauses, which restrict employees from working for or launching competing firms, can be quite lengthy.
However, there is no current timeframe given by the Government as to when this change will become law. The government has indicated that the primary legislation needed to implement the cap will be introduced ‘when Parliamentary time allows’.
Whilst the current position on enforceability of non-competes still applies to date, employers should be aware that any non-compete clauses in existing contracts may become void or unenforceable if they are over three months – if the proposed law comes into force. Currently, many employers are taking a view to implement non-compete clauses with the reasonableness rule in mind, whilst accepting that this may later need to be changed.
Leah Edwards is an Employment Law Solicitor at Aaron & Partners.
For any queries, please contact Leah Edwards at Aaron & Partners on [email protected].