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New Legislation

After a long period with no major changes to employment law, a raft of Private Member’s Bills have recently received Royal assent and will be coming into force over the next 12 – 24 months.

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023

  • Expected to come into force Summer 2024.
  • Will allow two requests per year instead of one.
  • The employee no longer has to explain the impact on the organisation or how this can be mitigated.
  • Employer must respond within two months instead of three.
  • Requires employers to meet / consult with employee if they can’t agree request & to consider any possible alternatives – this is already good practice and what we would always advise.
  • Currently the 26 week qualifying period remains, but this is expected to change to make it a day one right by the time the Act comes into force.
  • The eight statutory reasons to refuse request remain unchanged
  • ACAS are currently developing a new statutory code of practice.
  • It’s worth thinking ahead as this is likely to increase FWR – consider especially around recruitment and what flexibility, if any, you can offer at this stage.
  • Remember – we do advise that you use the formal process even for what appears to be a simple request, otherwise you could agree a change and still then be faced with a formal FWR a couple of months later.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023

  • Currently those on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy if one is available, before being made redundant.
  • This Act will extend the ‘protected period’ – likely to be from the point an employee informs her employer of the pregnancy to some point (probably six months) after the return from the period of parental leave.
  • Bizarrely, this Act is already in force, but further regulations are needed before employers expected to comply with it – unlikely to be before April 2024.
  • Protection is also expected to be given to women who have suffered a miscarriage.

Carer’s Leave Act 2023

  • Provides for one week of unpaid leave per year for those with caring responsibilities.
  • Awaiting details of how this will work.
  • Unlikely to come into force before April 2024.

Neonatal Care (Leave & Pay) Act 2023

  • Expected to come into force from April 2025.
  • Awaiting details, but likely to be up to 12 weeks leave in addition to maternity leave and to be a day one right. 
  • Employees with at least 26 weeks of service will also be paid at statutory rate.

The Workers (Predictable Terms And Conditions) Act 2023

  • Will allow workers and employees to request a more predictable working pattern.
  • Expected to be some qualifying period – possibly 26 weeks.
  • Employers will only have one month to respond.
  • Not expected into force for at least a year & awaiting details.

The Pensions (Extension Of Automatic Enrolment) Act 2023

  • Changes to auto-enrolment to include more people.
  • Likely in force next year.
  • Removal of lower earnings limit.
  • Age lowered to 18 from 22.

Other possible changes:

  • Consultation around simplifying holiday pay – let’s all hope this comes to something and actually DOES what it sets out to do!
  • Consultation around limiting non-compete clauses to a maximum of three months, and, potentially, requiring the employer to pay the employee for the period.
  • Consultation around changes to TUPE and the Working Time Regs.
  • The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill – we’ve mentioned this before as it was aiming to re-instate employer liability for third party harassment and place a increased duty on them to prevent sexual harassment. The third party liability has now been removed and other duties watered down but we’re awaiting final details.

And if we have a change of Government…

There are proposals to increase worker protections if Labour come into power, possibly including making it a day one right to be able to claim unfair dismissal.

This may well change, though historically the qualifying period is usually reduced to one year when we have a Labour Government.

If the day one right were to be introduced there is a suggestion that probationary periods might be recognised more formally as a ‘trial period’

– this would be a major change since they currently have no real legal standing
– watch this space

Contact us to arrange an initial, free, confidential call if you need help or support.

Please note – the information in this article is for general guidance only, and is not a substitute for specific legal advice in any given situation.

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