Employment Law Updates Every Business Should Know About in 2024

Employment law is constantly evolving and with this comes legislative changes that businesses should be aware of so that they can adequately plan, prepare and make changes to remain compliant.

We spoke to some experienced employment lawyers to find out more about some of the biggest updates to employment law in 2024 that every business should be aware of as well as helpful information about the laws, their implications and potential actions to take.

  • Flexible Working

In April 2024, amendments were made to the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 with a new law that introduced the following changes to the process;

  • Employees have the right to request flexible working from day one of employment, removing the requirement of 26 weeks of service to qualify.
  • Employees can make 2 flexible working requests per year as opposed to the previous limit of 1 per year.
  • Employers are required to respond to flexible working requests within 2 months and not 3 as it was previously.
  • Employers must consult on alternatives with the employee before refusing a request.
  • Employees are no longer required to lay out the impact that their flexible working request might have on the business or employer.

Knowing these changes can allow your business to implement them effectively into their HR policies and procedures to ensure that the statutory rights to request flexible working are clear and that these requests are handled in a reasonable manner.

  • Carers Leave

On April 6th, 2024, the Carers Leave Regulations 2024 introduced a new statutory right for employees with care obligations to take unpaid carers leave for 1 week. This can be taken as a block or spread out across individual or half days.

This applies to employees that need to care for a – spouse, child, civil partner, parent or dependent that requires care because of;

  • A condition which meets the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010
  • A physical or mental illness or injury which requires care for more than 3 months
  • Old age

This new entitlement means that employees who care for a dependant with long-term needs have a right from day one to take this leave and are protected from detrimental treatment or dismissal.

Having a detailed understanding of carers leave and these changes will ensure that employers are able to respond and manage requests quickly and appropriately to ensure compliance and consideration for the employee.

  • Redundancy Protection for New Parents

This new piece of employment legislation came into force in April 2024, expanding the current redundancy protection laws for pregnant employees or those returning from maternity/shared parental or adoption leave.

Previously, employees that were on maternity/shared parental/adoption leave had enhanced protection in redundancy situations which included the right to have first refusal on suitable alternative roles.

The new changes made to the law extend this redundancy protection for a further 6 months after the leave ends and now also includes;

  • Pregnant employees who enter a ‘protected period of pregnancy’ once they inform their employer
  • An employee who informed her employee she is pregnant and has suffered a miscarriage within the previous 2 weeks
  • Anyone returning to work from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave

This new act is designed to ensure that employers don’t make early judgements of performance within the first few months of the employee returning to work following a long period of absence. Because paternity leave is only a short amount of time off, fathers taking paternity leave are not protected by this act.

As an employer, your redundancy policy should refer to redundancy protection and be updated to reflect these changes regarding extended protection and ensure that the necessary people are informed so that they can be incorporated into any redundancy planning.

  • Protection From Harassment

Likely to come into force from October 2024, this new piece of employment law consists of amendments to the Equality Act 2010, introducing a duty on employers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent the sexual harassment of their employees.

The aim of this legislation is to place a greater responsibility on employers to make their workplaces safer for all staff. This means employers will now be expected to have a proactive duty to prevent sexual harassment and where sexual harassment cases reach a tribunal, they will have the power to uplift compensation by up to 25% if the employer is found to have breached their duty.

It is unclear yet what will be determined as ‘reasonable steps’ but is definitely something that businesses and employers can start planning for by looking at their existing measures in place and identifying areas that they can improve.