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There are several employment rights changes coming in this year, after a series of Private Members’ Bills passed through Parliament in 2023.
There are several employment rights changes coming in in 2024 in England, Scotland and Wales, covering everything from flexible working to protection from sexual harassment at work.
First is the right to request flexible working from day one in a new job.It is to come into effect from April 6th. Later in the year, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will come into effect which includes provisions such as the right to make two requests for flexible working in a year [up from one] and a reduction of one month in the time employers have to consider a request.
From 8th March, under the Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, fathers or partners of children whose expected week of birth begins after 6th April will be able to divide their statutory paternity leave into one-week blocks rather than taking it all at once and to take it at any point during the first year after the birth.
Other regulations coming in in April as the result of Private Members’ Bills include The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, which will extend the period of protection from redundancy for employees who are on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave to include the entire pregnancy and 18 months after the estimated week of childbirth or the date of birth or adoption and The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 (Commencement) Regulations 2023 which allows for five days of unpaid leave a year, with notice of twice the length of time to be taken off and protection from dismissal or detriment for carers taking the leave. These changes were all heralded in the now shelved Employment Bill, first promised in 2019, and so have been many years in the making.
Other changes this year include:
– The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act. This covers sexual harassment at work will come into force in October. The Act imposes a new duty on UK employers to take reasonable steps to prevent their employees being sexually harassed at work. Employment tribunals will also be able to increase awards by 25 per cent where the duty to prevent harassment has not been complied with. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission will have the power to take enforcement action against firms that breach this duty, and businesses may face increased compensation claims if they fail to prevent sexual harassment.
The Act proved controversial after a proposed liability on employers for harassment of their employees by third parties was dropped and a proactive duty on employers to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to prevent harassment was diluted, removing the word ‘all’.
-The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act. This will come into force this year, meaning people on atypical contracts, including zero hours contracts and fixed-term contracts of less than 12 months, will be able to make a formal application to change their working patterns to make it more predictable. Once a worker has made their request, their employer will be required to notify them of their decision within a month.
Meanwhile, The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 is expected to come into force in April 2025. The Act will allow parents of new born babies who are hospitalised in their first 28 days of life for seven days or more, the right to take neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks. The aim is to enable parents to spend more time with their babies who are having crucial care without having to worry about taking unpaid leave or returning to work. Parents who take neonatal leave and pay will also be entitled to return to the same job after their period of absence.