Ledia Doci | Solicitor

The ERAs Tour: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Key Employment Changes in 2024

The global phenomenon that is the Taylor Swift Eras Tour kicks off its highly anticipated UK leg tomorrow, and is expected to boost the UK economy by an estimated £1 billion, according to data generated by Barclays. With devoted fans travelling from far and near to attend the tour, the impact on various industries (such as retail, hospitality and leisure sectors) is likely to be significant and employers ought to be alert to any new changes coming into force this year, lest they become the victim of a Cruel Summer.

Long Story Short, below are some of the key employment law developments to be aware of in 2024 (in a subtly Taylor-coded fashion):

Flexible Working| Question…?

Since April 2024, the right to request flexible working became a “day one” right so now Everything Has Changed. Employees are no longer required to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment in order to request flexible working (e.g. the number of hours worked or place of work) and can now make that request from ‘day one’ of their employment.

The change embraces a shift in workplace dynamics (particularly post-pandemic) which introduces a range of advantages from an employer’s perspective, including retention and engagement from employees. Accordingly, it is crucial for employers to receive the applicable training and guidance to effectively manage such requests. From a practical perspective, employers ought to establish clear communication channels with their employees in order to secure any advantages that may arise from the change.

The process is as follows:

  1. An employee makes a written request;
  2. The employer has 2 months in which to consider the request, consult with the employee (if necessary) and notify the employee of the outcome; and
  3. The application must be dealt with reasonably by the employer.

An employer is entitled to refuse a request if captured under one of the 8 reasons permitted (e.g. the employer is burdened with additional costs or if there is a detrimental effect on the ability to satisfy customer demand). Ultimately, the request is subjective.

Conversely, an employee may raise a complaint to the tribunal if the employer erred in dealing with their request appropriately (e.g. if the request was not dealt with in a reasonable manner or if they were not notified of their decision within the requisite time period).

Allocation of Tips| Champagne Problems

Wages earned and lessons learned, employees in the service industry can expect the substantive provisions of the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 to come into force on 1 October 2024. Certain elements of the law are already in force, details of which can be found in our previous article here.

The Act requires employers to fairly allocate 100% of the tips to staff, with no deductions save for those required by tax law. Additionally, a ‘tipping’ policy ought to be in place for employers of businesses where tips are offered frequently (such as restaurants).

Should an employer fail to satisfy the requirements under the Act, employees are able to raise a complaint to enforce these obligations in a tribunal. As part of their claim, employees can include a copy of the tipping record (as they are entitled to request from their employer) if they believe that they are not receiving the appropriate tips.  

Protection Against Sexual Harassment | Don’t Blame Me

In October 2024, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will:

  1. Impose a duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent their employees being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees no longer need to Tolerate It as employers will have more onerous obligations to prevent employee sexual harassment.
  2. Empower tribunals to offer an additional compensatory uplift of up to 25% (of the original compensatory award) where an employer is found to have breached the new duty.

The imposition of a proactive duty on employers signifies an important shift in the workplace discrimination laws. However, it is worth noting that the “extent” of such proactive duties on employers is undefined. Accordingly, any claims submitted to the tribunal in connection with the Act will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the type of employer and relevant circumstances.

Compensation | Look What You Made Me Do

If parties do find themselves with Bad Blood with regards to any discrimination and whistleblowing claims and are unable to Shake It Off, if successful in their claim, the amount of compensation that may be given for injured feelings has increased.

For claims issued after 6 April 2024, the Vento bands for awards relating to discrimination claims are now:

  1. £1,200 to £11,700 (lower band);
  2. £11,700 to £35,200 (middle band); and
  3. £35,200 to £58,700 (upper band for the most series cases)
  4. £58,700 for the most exceptional cases.

Time Limits| The Prophecy 

Currently, employees with a minimum of two years’ qualified service are entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. Ahead of the upcoming general election in July 2024, the two-year qualifying period for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal protection may be removed (subject to contractual probationary periods), according to a proposal put forward by the Labour Party.

It is also proposed that the time limit for bringing a claim to the employment tribunal is extended from 3 months to 6 months, thereby shifting the scales in favour of the employees. Time will tell if these proposals develop into anything more.  

Separately, from 6 April 2024, judges can now direct a 28-day time limit for a response where a claim is re-served under rule 16(1) of the tribunal rules. This applies where a copy of the ET1 sent by the tribunal differs from the one provided on the claimant’s ET1 claim form.

Finally, as a reminder, the deadline to present a claim or response can be done any time before Midnight(s) on the last day for presentation.

Protection for Pregnant Women and Maternity Leave Returners | You’re On Your Own, Kid

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 came into force on 6 April 2024 and provides extended redundancy protection to pregnant employees and employees who have returned from family leave.

Previously, the rules obliged employers to prioritise and offer suitable alternative employment to maternity, adoption or shared leave employees who faced the risk of redundancy.

It is worth highlighting that the rules do not remove the risk of employees in such circumstances becoming redundant, but rather ensures that additional precautions are taken to ensure such employees are scored fairly and are not discriminated against under the circumstances.

Digitisation| Electric Touch  

HM Courts and Tribunals Service continues to roll out its digitisation of the Employment Tribunal process. At present, only parties in certain regions (like Glasgow) have had the benefit of using the online system to present their ET3 response.

However, the system ought to be fully rolled out to all regions by summer with the effect of generating a more efficient system, designed to ensure tribunal parties and their representatives have access to the relevant information when required.

Right To ‘Switch Off’| Dear Reader

Inspired by the impact of France and Belgium’s labour laws, a significant (and perhaps welcomed) change that may emerge from the outcome of The Great War that is the general election, is the introduction of a ‘right to disconnect’ from work, particularly in the digital climate.  

At present, it is unclear whether the right will be absolute or have exceptions (particularly with regards to employees’ senior positions).  However, employers know All Too Well that on occasion, a very real and reasonable business need for them to contact employees after critical hours can arise. As such, it is hoped that any right for an employee to ‘switch off’ is suitably qualified to balance the needs of the employer. For anyone wondering, this means that employers likely cannot contact their employees via a Message In A Bottle either.

Right to Request A More Predictable Contract | September

Workers and agency workers will obtain the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work where there is a lack of predictability to their work pattern.

This change is likely to come into force around September 2024.

If you require advice in relation to any of the above, or any other employment matter, our employment team have eras of experience and are here to help. Please contact us today.

Ledia Doci

Ledia Doci

Employment Law Team

"Navigating the everchanging landscape within employment law can be challenging for both employers and employees, particularly as the political field shifts and technology advances. Understanding how to manage such forces in flux can be as rewarding as it is demanding, and ensuring that clients receive clear and pragmatic solutions is at the heart of achieving the optimal outcome."

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