Six employment law changes SMEs need to be aware of…

When it comes to employment law changes, 2024 is turning out to be a very busy year! This article isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list as we can’t cover all of the changes here. But these are some of the main ones to be aware of…

1. Changes to rates

As is usual in April, there was an annual increase to the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage. Rates went up to:

  • £6.40 per hour for apprentices and employees aged 16-17
  • £8.60 per hour for employees aged 18 – 20 years old
  • £11.44 per hour for everyone eligible for the National Living Wage.

It’s important to be aware that the qualifying age for the National Living Wage has been lowered to 21 years (rather than 23 years). So make sure that the correct rate applies to employees in this age bracket.

There have been other changes too with statutory sick pay increasing from £109.40 to £116.75 per week and statutory pay for different forms of family leave (such as paternity/maternity/adoption) rising from £172.48 to a maximum of £184.03 per week for those who qualify for it.

2. Expanded redundancy protection during maternity leave

Previously, before making them redundant, employers needed to offer an employee on maternity leave a suitable alternative vacancy if one was available. The changes to the regulations have extended that protection by another six months. They now start from the point when the employee has informed you they are pregnant through to 18 months after the child has been born.

3. Carer’s leave

From the first day of employment, employees now have the right to take up to one week’s unpaid leave per year to care for a dependant. A week equates to the actual length of time the employee would usually work over a seven-day period.

A dependant doesn’t have to be a family member. They are defined as someone with:

  • a physical or mental illness or injury that means they’re expected to need care for more than 3 months
  • a disability
  • care needs due to old age

You won’t be able to refuse an employee’s request to take carer’s leave. However, you can ask them to postpone it for up to a month if business operations would be significantly disrupted by it.

4. Holiday pay changes for irregular and part-year workers

There have been some changes to the way holiday pay is calculated for these types of workers. For leave years starting on or after 1st April 2024, holiday pay will be calculated as 12.07 per cent of actual hours worked in a pay period. This calculation is based on the fact that all full time workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ leave. But of course, depending on their contract, they may be entitled to more.

Rolled-up holiday pay is also now an option. Employers can give it by including an additional amount in payslips, rather than paying it when leave is taken. If you choose to do this, you’ll have to consider how to best manage associated issues. These include any contract changes that will be needed and how you will check workers are taking their leave.

There have also been a number of changes to the rules about the carry-over of leave which employers should make themselves aware of too. They include workers being able to carry leave over to the next year if they can’t take their holiday due to being on family-related leave (e.g. maternity leave) or on sick leave.

5. TUPE

There have been changes in TUPE law for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, or for businesses of any size who have fewer than 10 employees affected by a transfer. In these cases, if no existing employee representatives are already in place, businesses can consult directly with the affected employees.

6. Flexible working

Flexible working legislation has changed too, with a right to request flexible working from the first day of employment being one of the key updates that came into force from the 6th April 2024. You can read more about it in this article on flexible working.

There are more employment law changes on the way…

These are just some of the highlights of the most recent employment law updates… and over the rest of 2024 there are more changes to come! There’s a lot for businesses to keep track of, let alone know how to implement correctly… so if you’re finding the prospect of keeping on top of it all rather challenging, please do have a look at our range of HR Services designed to support you in the most flexible and effective way possible. If you’d like to have a chat about how we can help, do get in touch with us.

Employment Law Update

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