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The government has officially announced the implementation of at least 10 new laws for the year 2024, in addition to the customary annual legal adjustments.

Here’s a roundup of what to expect from the year ahead and how you and your business can prepare for the changes:

Statutory Carer’s Leave

The government has announced the introduction of a new law effective from April 6th, granting your employees the right to statutory carer’s leave.

This will be available to eligible employees from their first day of employment. Eligibility for statutory carer’s leave will be for employees caring for dependents with long-term care needs and will have the option to take up to one week of unpaid leave.

Statutory Neonatal Care Leave

Expected in October 2024, a new type of statutory leave for parents of (or those who have a responsibility for) babies in neonatal care.

This initiative grants employees with babies in neonatal care additional time off work, supplementing existing maternity and paternity leave entitlements. This will be a right they have from day one on the job.

Eligible employees will have access to a maximum of 12 weeks of neonatal leave. Furthermore, if your employee meets the eligibility criteria, you’ll also need to pay them for this leave (which will be the same rate you would pay for maternity pay).

National Minimum Wage Rises

Every year, the national minimum wage experiences an increase, but in April 2024, we have had more than just the typical adjustment.

Here are the new rates you’ll need to make note of…

  • For those over compulsory school age but not yet 18 – £6.40 per hour
  • For apprentices aged 19 and under (or 19 and over and in their first year of their apprenticeship) – £6.40 per hour
  • For those aged 18 to 20 – £8.60 per hour
  • National living wage (anyone aged 21 and over) – £11.44 per hour

Flexible Working Requests

On April 6th, the government will grant employees the immediate entitlement to make a flexible working request from their first day of employment.

Previously, employees were restricted to making one flexible working request each year after having completed 26 weeks of employment with you, under these new rules, employees will be able to make two requests in a year.

The employer has a legal duty to consult with staff about their requests and make a decision about any request within two months of receiving it.


A new right to request a more predictable working pattern

This is a brand new right for certain workers expected in September of this year. It means that workers with unstable or unpredictable working hours will have a legal right to ask for more predictable working patterns.

This includes zero hour workers, agency workers, employees and those on fixed-term contracts lasting less than one year.


Extended legal protection from redundancy for pregnant staff

Currently, employees on maternity leave have more rights and protection against redundancy than other staff. And from 6th April 2024, pregnant employees will have those rights too.

Meaning, if you were ever having to consider redundancies, you would need to take steps to also help keep your pregnant staff in work before anyone else. Failing to follow this could lead to possible sex discrimination claims, unfair dismissal claims and uncapped compensation.

So, you will need consider your pregnant employees for suitable alternative roles before other employees. Your pregnant employees will then continue to have this legal protection from redundancy.

This is from the moment they tell work about their pregnancy up until 18 months after the birth of their child. The same protection will also apply to those who take maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.


A proactive duty to prevent sexual harassment at work

Next on the list we have the new Worker Protection Act. This means, you will need to take reasonable steps to help prevent sexual harassment in your workplace by law.

Currently, you are legally liable if your employee makes a harassment claim and you can’t show that you did anything to help prevent it. And yet, there’s no legal requirement to take proactive steps to prevent harassment (like having a policy or giving training). While it’s strongly recommended, it’s not a requirement.

But under this new law, you will be in legal trouble if your business doesn’t take active steps to prevent harassment. That’s whether an incident has happened or not.

Your employees will also be able to make official complaints to the Equality and Human Rights Commission at any point if they see you haven’t taken any preventative steps.

Meaning, you may have to prove that you do take steps even when there isn’t a claim or allegation against you.

And if you can’t prove it, you would likely to have to pay hefty compensation – which tribunals will have a right to increase by up to 25%.

What are your next steps?

With so many updates flying in, you’ll need to make sure you:

  • Review your procedures

You’ll need to review your procedures around leave, flexible working, harassment, redundancy, tips – any that are affected by the updates. Then, amend them in line with the new legal requirements. Because you’ll need to be ready to deal with employee requests and any incidents quickly and in line with the latest rules.

  • Update your policies and employee handbooks

You’ll need to make sure your policies and handbooks all cover the new updates and how your business will manage them.

  • Create new policies

You should create new, separate policies with information around each update and clear reporting procedures for staff to follow.

  • Offer training

It’s a good idea to organise staff training to re-establish codes of conduct and how to manage all these new processes. Managers will need to understand how to manage new leave requests and conduct issues promptly and in line with the law.

  • Update your software

You’ll need to make sure any software you use for managing leave requests can manage requests for new types of leave.

Keeping your documentation and processes legally up to date isn’t just for your legal safety, but it also shows you’re committed to providing the highest level of business support, helping you to continue attracting and retaining top talent.