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Employment law changes and developments for 2024

This year introduces a bumper number of legislative changes and developments in employment law.

Claire Bennett
Claire Bennett Practice Management Consultant

Practice owners and managers will need to be aware of the legal changes and developments to plan, update internal policies and procedures, and take other practical steps to ensure compliance.

Some of the changes are likely to have a significant impact on the day-to-day running of a dental practice and the management of its staff. As always, we have updated our related, more extensive advice for members to reflect the changes I outline further below:

  • Contracts and rights of employees: Updates to the sections on holiday entitlement, flexible working, and carer's leave
  • Employee pay and rewards: Updates to the sections on the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage and Holiday and time off
  • The following Expert downloads:
    • Annual leave policy and form
    • Bullying and harassment policy
    • Carer's leave policy
    • Carer's leave template letters
    • Flexible working policy
    • Equality and diversity policy for patients

Holiday and working time

Changes have been made to the Working Time Regulations including holiday entitlement and pay for irregular hours and part year workers. For leave years commencing after 1 April 2024, a holiday accrual calculation of 12.07% of actual hours worked in a pay period has been introduced. Changes also mean that employers may opt to pay “rolled up” holiday pay to this group of workers.

New rules confirm the definition of a week’s pay for holiday pay calculations, and precisely which additional payments should be included in holiday pay. The new rules confirm the first four weeks of statutory pay (and all holiday pay paid to irregular hours workers) must be calculated to include:

  • Commission payments which are intrinsically linked to the performance of tasks which the worker is obliged to carry out under their contract
  • Payments for professional or personal status relating to length of service, seniority or professional qualification
  • Payments such as overtime payments, which have been regularly paid to a worker in the 52 weeks preceding the calculation date.

The remaining 1.6 weeks statutory leave will continue to be subject to the old definition of a week’s pay set out under the Employment Relations Act 1996, depending on whether the worker works normal working hours and other factors.

Changes to carry-over rules confirm that workers who are prevented from taking leave entitlement due to family leave such as maternity leave, or sick leave, may carry it forward. In the case of sick leave, the carried over leave must be taken within 18 months. Additionally, there is a new right to carry over annual leave if an employer fails to encourage workers to take annual leave or does not provide reasonable opportunities to take it.

Requirements on employers to keep records of daily working hours were relaxed on 1 January 2024, so that practices only need to keep ‘adequate’ records of working time.

Right to work fines

From 22 January 2024, the fine for employing someone who does not have the right to work in the UK increased from £15,000 to £45,000 per illegal worker.

National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage

The usual annual increases to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage took effect on 1 April 2024. The new rates are: £11.44 for individuals over the age of 21; £8.60 for individuals 18-20 years of age; and £6.40 for individuals 16-17 years of age and apprentices.

On 6 April 2024, a new right for employees to take carer’s leave was introduced.

Carer’s leave

On 6 April 2024, a new right for employees to take carer’s leave was introduced. Eligible employees have this right from the first day of employment. Employees have the right to take carer’s leave if caring for a dependant with a long-term care need. A dependant may be either a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, an individual living in the same household as the employee (but who is not a tenant, boarder, lodger or fellow employee), or anyone who is reasonably reliant on the employee for care.

Employees will be able to take a maximum of one week’s unpaid leave a year. Leave may be taken flexibly, but employees will need to give you a minimum amount of notice. This will be either double the amount of leave that is requested, or three days, whichever is longer. This is a brand new right and will require practices to change existing policies and procedures, or implement new ones. Managers should be trained on how to deal with these types of requests sensitively and in compliance with the new rules.

Flexible working

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, introduces several changes, affecting applications to work flexibly made on or after 6 April 2024.

The Act increases the number of requests an employee can make per year from one to two. It places an obligation on employers to consult with an employee when they make a flexible working request before rejecting it. The amount of time an employer will have to respond to a request will be reduced from three months to two months. There will no longer be any requirement on the employee to explain what effect they think the change might have on the employer’s business. Additionally, the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, make the right to request to work flexibly a right on day one.

The Act does not amend the existing statutory grounds for refusing a request:

  • The burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Detrimental impact of quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.

Practices should ensure policies and procedures are updated, managers are informed of the changes, and an effective process is put in place to enable requests to be dealt with promptly. A new ACAS Code of Practice accompanies the legislative changes in this area.

The amount of time an employer will have to respond to a request will be reduced from three months to two months.

Redundancy protection for pregnant staff

There are well established rules affording additional protection against redundancy for members of staff on maternity leave. From 6 April 2024, pregnant members of staff also have these protections. This means that if your practice is considering making roles redundant, you will need to consider any pregnant members of staff for suitable alternative roles before any other employees. This will apply from the moment you are informed about the pregnancy, up until 18 months after the birth.

Sexual harassment

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will come into force on 26 October 2024. The Act will place a positive duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. It will also give employment tribunals the power to uplift sexual harassment compensation by up to 25% where the employer is found to have breached this duty.

This new duty does not give raise to a free-standing claim and must be attached to a claim of sexual harassment. Although October may seem like a long way off, practices should be reviewing policies and procedures now to ensure that the duty can be met when it comes into force. You should also review and update anti-harassment training for managers and staff.

Predictable contracts

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 establishes a new statutory right for workers who have unpredictable working hours, such as zero hours contracts and agency workers, to request predictable working hours, days and times.

These new rights are not expected to come into force until September 2024. Eligible workers will be able to make two predictable working pattern requests a year. Employers must deal with requests reasonably – scheduling timely meetings and keeping accurate records – and respond within a month. As with many of the other changes highlighted above, practices who engage these types of workers will need to ensure that policies and procedures are in place to account for the new law.

Advice for members

Employing staff

Our Employing Staff advice page has been updated to reflect the changes to employment law which came into force in April 2024.