From working hours and hourly pay to migration and family leave, there are big changes ahead, says FRASER VANDAL
It has has been a challenging year for many human resources teams and there will be little respite in the new year as new and emerging legislation takes shape and comes into force. So what will be the key changes employers should look out for in 2024?
Various changes to the law are due to be implemented on New Year’s Day, including the removal of red tape from working hours record keeping obligations, with detailed daily records no longer being necessary.
“Rolled up” holiday pay will be introduced – a practice whereby a worker’s holiday pay is “rolled up” into their wages, as opposed to being paid as a distinct payment during periods of holiday. Previously prevented by EU law; from 1 January, it will be permissible for employers to “roll up” holiday pay for workers who work an irregular pattern and those who only work on a part year basis.
The TUPE Regulations will be amended to simplify information and consultation processes in certain circumstances where a transfer involves (i) a small business with less than 50 employees, or (ii) a business of any size, but where less than 10 employees are transferring. This has the potential to remove a significant admin burden for small transfers or where small businesses are involved.
Amendments are also being made to the Equality Act 2010 to preserve some protections that would otherwise have lapsed post-Brexit. These include preservation of the “single source” comparator test in equal pay claims, the right for individuals to claim indirect associative discrimination and the preservation of protections linked to maternity and breastfeeding.
Minimum Wage Rises
At the Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the largest ever cash increase to the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage. From 1 April 2024, for those aged 21 and over, minimum hourly rates will rise by 9.8% to £11.44 per hour. Whilst this will undoubtedly be welcome news for staff who will receive this rise, the cost will fall to employers to source the additional funds.
In the biggest set of changes to the UK’s work visa rules since they were overhauled post-Brexit, the Home Secretary has recently announced changes intended to dramatically reduce net migration to the UK. The minimum annual salary level for sponsored “Skilled Workers” will rise from £26,200 to £38,700, “Shortage Occupation List” concessions will largely be removed and limits will be placed on foreign care workers bringing family members to the UK.
The Immigration Health Surcharge – the fee payable by some visa holders for access to NHS services – will dramatically increase, whilst the Migration Advisory Committee has been asked to review the Graduate visa route to prevent “abuse” of the rules.
Most changes will be implemented in Spring 2024, but the Health Surcharge will rise in January 2024. The Government has also announced that the maximum civil penalty for employers who employ illegal workers will rise from £20,000 to £60,000 (per illegal worker) in early 2024.
Family Friendly Changes
A variety of Acts intended to benefit working families were passed in 2023, with Regulations expected throughout 2024 to bring these changes into effect. Under current rules, those on maternity leave and certain other family-related leave have enhanced protection in redundancy situations.
New rules are expected in 2024 that will extend these enhanced protections to pregnant employees and those who have recently returned to work following maternity and certain other family-related leave. The devil will be in the detail, but it is expected that these employees will receive enhanced protections for up to 6 months after their return to work.
Other changes expected in 2024 include the creation of a statutory right to take unpaid leave to care for a dependant, the right to request flexible working from Day 1 of employment and the creation of a right for those with unpredictable working patterns to request more predictable terms.
Strikes – Minimum Service Levels
The much publicised and controversial legislation concerning minimum service levels during periods of industrial action was enacted in 2023. This gives the UK Government the power to enact Regulations setting out minimum service levels in certain sectors – including health, fire/rescue and education. Regulations are possible in 2024, but Trade Unions have already stated that they will challenge the legislation.
Fraser Vandal is an associate at Gillespie Macandrew