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6 minute read • published in partnership with Irwin Mitchell

Insight: What’s on the horizon for employment law for manufacturers in 2024

2024 will be a busy year for HR practitioners and line managers in the manufacturing sector. New legislation will increase legal protections for pregnant women, new parents, carers and those wanting to work flexibly. Significant changes are being made to the Working Time Regulations and a new duty to prevent workplace sexual harassment will also take effect. Elaine Huttley from Irwin Mitchell  shares more on what 2024 will hold.

Most of the new Acts referred to are already on the statute books but won’t come into force until the government issues separate regulations which will, also provide additional detail.

Changes to holiday and holiday pay

The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2023 amend the Working Time Regulations. New rules will apply to workers with irregular working hours (such those engaged on zero hours contracts) and those working under part-year contracts. They won’t automatically be entitled to 5.6 weeks holiday each year and instead, will accrue holiday at a rate of 12.07% of the hours they work each month. Employers will also be able to lawfully roll-up holiday pay for this group of workers by paying an additional 12.07% on top of their hourly pay, provided they itemise this separately on their payslips. Employers can make these changes for leave years on or after 1 April 2024.

Other changes will come into force from 1 January 2024 including defining what types of payments have to be included in holiday pay (including some commission, uplifts for professional or personal status or seniority and overtime payments).

The new rules also expressly set out when a worker will be able to roll over holiday from one leave year to the next (and in some cases beyond that). They also put a new duty on employers to inform their staff if they have outstanding holiday they need to take before the end of the leave year.

Employers will need to review the contracts of employment of their staff to ensure that they reflect these new rules and amend any that don’t.

Picture: Getty/iStock

New protection against redundancy

Under current rules, before making an employee on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave redundant, employers are obliged to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists in priority to anyone else who is provisionally selected for redundancy.

The individuals that will be protected by The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 include:

A pregnant employee who’s in their protected period of pregnancy
Employees who have suffered a recent miscarriage
Shared parental leave returners
Adoption leave returners
Maternity returners.

We expect these to be published in the new year and for these changes to come into force in 2024.

Carers leave

The Carers Leave Act 2023 will introduce a “day one” right to one week’s unpaid leave to help employees with long-term caring responsibilities balance these with their paid work. Dependants include:

Civil partners
A person in the same household as the employee (unless they’re an employee of the employee, tenant, lodger, or border)
A person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.

A long-term care need is classed as an illness or injury, which can be physical or mental, that requires or is likely to require care for a period of more than three months, a disability (as defined in the Equality Act 2010), or issues relating to old age.

There’s yet to be clarification on how this leave can be taken, however, it’s expected that it will be able to be taken flexibly, up to a block of one week every 12 months.

New regulations are required to bring this right into force. We expect these to be published in the new year and for the new right to come into force in April 2024.

Picture: Getty/iStock

Right to request a more predictable working pattern

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will allow some workers to ask their employer for a more predictable working pattern including the right to work for a certain number of hours, or on particular days of the week. The right will also apply to workers engaged under fixed term contracts of less than 12 months. Employers will be able to turn down requests if they have a business reason for doing so.

New regulations are required to bring this into force. We expect these to be published in the new year and come into force in September 2024.

Changes to rules on flexible working

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will make significant changes to the current statutory procedure. Employees will be able to make up to two requests each year, and employers will have to deal with applications (and any appeals) within two months. Employers will still be able to turn down requests if they have a business reason for doing so on the same grounds as currently exist. The government has also said that employees will be able to make a request from the first day of their employment.

New regulations are required to bring this into force. We expect these to be published in the new year and for changes to come into force in July 2024.

Picture: Getty/iStock

Paternity leave – expected ‘in due course’

As a result of a recent government consultation, there have been proposed amendments to the current legislation surrounding paternity leave. The amendments seek to increase the amount of flexibility available by allowing leave to be taken:

Either in two separate blocks of one week, or one block of two weeks (the current position is taking one block of one or two weeks)
At any point during the first 52 weeks of the birth or adoption of the child, opposed to just within the first 8 weeks
With a notice period of only 28 days before each period of leave, but the requirement to notify the employer of entitlement will still be required to be given 15 weeks before birth.

New rules on combating workplace harassment

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) 2023 will impose a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces. If they fail to do so, a tribunal can award a claimant additional compensation of up to 25% of their compensatory award.

This will come into force in the autumn of 2024 and employers will have to update their diversity and inclusion policies and ensure that the training they provide to their staff complies with the new law.

Picture: Getty/iStock

National minimum wage

There are some hefty wage increases employers will need to factor in. From April 2024, the National Living Wage will apply to workers aged 21 and over and the rate is increasing to £11.44 an hour, those aged between 18-20 will receive £8.60 an hour; 16 and 17 year olds £6.40 an hour and apprentices under the age of 19 or in their first year £6.40 an hour.

What a Labour Party employment reform could look like

With an upcoming general election, it’s important to consider what the opposition’s employment law reform could look like. Should the Labour Party win the next election, they have proposed:

Single worker status: this would result in a two-part framework within employment law, having just workers and self-employed, rather than the current distinction between employees, workers, and self-employed.
Unfair dismissal as a day one right, with further changes to unfair dismissal including:
– The removal of compensation limits
– The right to not be unfairly dismissed would be extended to workers, not just employees
– Extended time limits to file a claim
A ban on zero-hours contracts and the right to minimum hours
A ban on fire and rehire
A right to disconnect from work
Expansions to trade union rights.