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Employment law changes – what’s on the horizon?

So many changes to employment law have been announced lately that you can be forgiven if you are struggling to keep track! Luckily we are here with a handy guide to what changes are coming and when they will take effect.

Flexible working changes

We gave the details of the forthcoming changes in our previous article here. The new changes are expected to come into force in July 2024.

The headline changes are:

  • Employees will be able to make two requests in any 12-month period, rather than one
  • Employees will no longer have to explain the effect that their request will have on others
  • Employers won’t be able to reject a request without discussing it with the employee first
  • Employer will have 2 months to reach a decision on a request rather than 3
  • A new ACAS Code will be issued

The Government has also said that they will remove the requirement for an employee to have 26 weeks’ service in order to make a request.

New duty to prevent sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is unfortunately all too topical at the moment, as we looked at in our recent article here.

To try to combat the problem, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 has now been given Royal Assent, and it is due to come into effect in October 2024.

The Act includes a new duty on all employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent sexual harassment. This is a weaker version of what was originally proposed, as that would have required ‘all reasonable steps’ – a small but significant difference!

There will be a forthcoming ACAS Code of Practice as well as guidance for employers to follow.

Having effective policies and procedures and ensuring that staff are properly trained will be key in order for employers to show they have complied with their duty. Please contact us if we can help you with this.

Right to request a more predictable working pattern

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions Act) 2023 has now received Royal Assent and will enable eligible workers and agency workers to make a request for a more predictable working pattern. As with flexible working, it is important to remember that it is purely a right to make a request, it is not a right to make a demand.

Eligible workers will be able to make a maximum of 2 requests in any 12-month period.

There are still some details to be clarified in due course, but we know that it will be necessary for the person making the request to have 26 weeks’ service, and there will be statutory grounds that an employer can rely on to refuse the request (which mirror the grounds for refusing a flexible working request).

It is thought that the Act will come into effect in September 2024.

New rules on third-party harassment

Although the original version of the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 contained provisions aimed at preventing third-party harassment, those ended up being removed by the House of Lords and will not be coming into effect.

Carer’s Leave Act 2023

This new Act received Royal Assent in May 2023 and when it becomes law, it will introduce a new flexible entitlement of one week’s unpaid leave per year for those who are providing or arranging care for a dependant with a long-term care need.

No implementation date has been announced yet but it is thought that it might be April 2024.

Neonatal leave and pay

This is another new piece of legislation that received Royal Assent in May, but for this one the rights to leave and pay are not expected to apply until April 2025.

The new law will give an additional right to 12 weeks of paid leave on top of other existing family-friendly leave such as maternity and paternity leave. It will apply to parents of babies that require specialist neonatal care. Further details will be announced in due course, but pay is likely to be at the same rate as statutory paternity leave.

Protection from redundancy for those taking family-friendly leave

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will mean that those who are pregnant or who have returned from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave will benefit from the same protection against redundancy as currently applies to women on maternity leave (sometimes known as the ‘maternity trump card’). It is thought that the protection will apply for six months after an employee returns from leave, but details are yet to be announced. As yet, there is no set implementation date for the new law.

We will of course keep you up to date on these and any other future changes. If you have any queries about anything to do with employment law please contact a member of our friendly team for assistance.

Contact our Employment Team if you have questions about this or any other employment law matter.

Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.