Forthcoming changes to Employment Law and what they mean for your business

As a business it is important to keep up to date with the latest changes to Employment Law, in this article Stephen Woodman, a Solicitor in our Employment Team, takes us through the forthcoming changes and what this will mean for you.

There have been several changes to the law as it relates to employment in 2023. However, you could be forgiven for not noticing as they have received little fanfare. This could be because they do not amount to major changes, rather they are broadly modifications to the existing law, or placing on a statutory footing things that have been considered good practice for some time.

For example, three new pieces of legislation have recently been passed that have the stated aim of giving parents and carers new protections at work. The legislation covers leave entitlement and the rules relating to redundancy. All three pieces of legislation received cross-party support and it is hoped that they will increase workforce participation and protect vulnerable workers.

The three pieces of legislation are:

1. Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023

This will allow eligible employed parents who have a new-born baby in neonatal care to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave.

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

This will allow the extension of existing redundancy protections while the parent is on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave to also include pregnancy and for a period of time after a new parent has returned to work.

3. Carer’s Leave Act 2023

This will create a new statutory leave entitlement for employees who are caring for a dependant with a long-term care need. Although the leave will be unpaid by replacing the current position which is inconsistent between employers it is hoped it will create more of a level playing field.

All three pieces of legislation have received Royal Assent, but are not expected to come into force until spring 2024.

Other changes in 2023

Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023

This grants workers a right to request flexible working from day one of a new job and requires employers to consider any requests and provide a reason before rejection. It will be possible to make two requests a year (a minimum of two months apart). The definition of flexible working is broad and can relate to working hours, or a pattern of hours including part-time, term-time, flexi-time or differing start or finish times. It is expected the Act will come into force in spring 2024.

Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023

Another Act that has received Royal Assent, but is not expected to come into force until 2024. This will mean that employers will be legally obligated to allocate all tips and service charges (less any deductions for tax and National Insurance) to their workers. Furthermore, employers must keep records of how the tips and service charges are allocated and distribute them to workers by the end of the following month in which the tip was received. Workers also have a new right to bring a claim in an Employment Tribunal if tips are unlawfully withheld from them.

Whistleblowing Review

At the end of March 2023, the Government announced a review into the current state of the law as it relates to Whistleblowing in the UK. Whistleblowing, the act of making a disclosure of wrongdoing remains an essential tool for ensuring transparency and accountability in society, and the current law (the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) is intended to offer protection to workers who raise disclosures in the public interest against suffering a detriment as a result of making that disclosure. During the Covid-19 pandemic, bodies like the Care Quality Commission and Health and Safety Executive saw a surge in whistleblowing disclosures, underscoring the framework's crucial role during crises.

Furthermore both the United States of America and the European Union have made legislative changes to the protections afforded to Whistleblowers and the review was expected to consider whether the UK’s provision afforded adequate protection.

The review was originally expected to conclude its evidence gathering phase in autumn 2023, but at the time of writing there is no indication of when the final review will be published.

All of the Acts mentioned above have already received Royal Assent and so will be coming into force in the near future, in most instances this is expected to be spring 2024. 

If you think any of the changes could affect you or your business we welcome discussing this with you further. Please contact Stephen Woodman or contact our Employment Team on 01258 459361.

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