There are major changes coming to Employment Law legislation in 2023. To help you understand we have written a guide on what we can expect to see and the implications of the changes.
Pay Related Changes
The Department for Work and Pensions has published its annual rate increases for 2023-2024:
- From April 2023, the hourly rate for National Minimum Wage will rise as follows:
- Workings aged 23 and over: £10. 42 ph, up from £9.50
- Workers aged 21 – 22: £10.18, up from £9.18
- Workers aged 18 – 20: £7.49, up from £6.83
- Workers aged 16 or 7: £5.28, up from £4.81
- Apprentice Rate: £5.28, up from £4.81
- The rate of statutory sick pay will increase from £99.35 per week to £109.40 per week.
- The rates of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay, and statutory shared parental pay will increase from £156.66 per week to £172.48 per week.
Changes to Flexible Working Request
Employers will need to be aware of upcoming changes to an employee’s right to request flexible working following the Government’s response to a 2021 consultation on flexible working laws.
Currently, employees are eligible to request a change to their working pattern after 26 weeks’ continuous employment. Such requests can include reducing hours or days of working, a request for hybrid or home working or flexible working hours.
Employers are required to meet with the employee and consider the request, and may only reject the request for one of eight statutory reasons:
- planned structural changes
- the burden of additional costs
- quality or standards will suffer
- inability to recruit additional staff
- performance will suffer
- inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- difficulty meeting customer demand
- lack of work during the periods the employee proposes to work.
However, on 5th December 2022, the Government announced that the right to request flexible working will be extended to employees from the first day of employment. This means that an employee could request a reduction to working hours of days on their very first day in the role, despite having agreed to working specified hours when accepting the offer of employment.
In light of these upcoming amendments, we would recommend that employees be open to discussions about flexible working during the interview stage and, if the role could be worked on a part time basis, or from home, make this clear in the job advertisement. This will help to manage candidates’ expectations, potentially open the role to a wider talent pool, and also save employers the time and cost of onboarding a candidate, only to find out on the first day of employment that the employee is unable to work in accordance with the arrangement previously agreed.
In addition to a day one right to request flexible working, employees will also be able to make two request every 12 months, up from one. This will enable employees to request to revert to their original working arrangement, request a further change if the new arrangement is not working from them as expected, or adapt to a change in circumstances. Employers will need to respond to requests within two months rather than three, however, this is unlikely to have a substantial impact on employers, as, regardless of statutory deadlines, flexible working requests should always be responded to without delay, and extensions can be agreed with the employee in exceptional circumstances.
In terms of the process to be followed, employers will be under a new duty to discuss alternatives to the request rather than rejecting a request out of hand. This is unlikely to be a particularly onerous duty and will be something that many employers already consider when dealing with a flexible working request.
Finally, the requirement for employees to set out the effect of how their flexible working request may impact the employer will be removed, simplifying the process. Whilst this requirement was a useful tool to ensure the employee had considered the impact of their request on their colleagues and the business, in practice, this rarely deterred employees from making an impractical request.
In terms of timescales, the Government’s response has confirmed that primary legislation will need to be passed to effect these changes, however, no timetable has been provided.
Carer’s Leave Bill
The Carer’s Leave Bill will introduce a new right to one weeks’ unpaid leave for employees currently providing unpaid care to a dependent. This right will be extended to all employees, regardless of length of service.
The bill contains a very specific definition of dependent, restricting the scope to a spouse, civil partner, child, or parent of the employee, who lives in the same household as the employee, who reasonably relies upon the employee to provide or arrange care, and has a long-term care need.
This means the scope is much narrower that that of Dependent’s Incident Leave – for example the employee will not have a right under this bill to request a week off to care for a child with has taken ill with chickenpox, or to care for a family member who is not resident with them. In these situations, employees will need to rely upon existing rights such as parental leave or request annual leave.
When requesting Carer’s leave, employees must give twice as much notice as the length of leave they propose to take and may take the time as partial of full days – it is not necessary to take the time as a one-week block. Employees are under no duty to provide evidence of why they need to take leave, and employers are not permitted to request this.
The bill enshrines the right to bring a claim to an employment tribunal if the employee’s request for leave is unreasonable postponed, or if the employee is prevented from taking leave. Employees takin Carer’s Leave will also be protected from dismissal or from suffering a detriment.
In terms of timescales, the Bill is due to undergo the Report Stage in the House of Commons on 3rd February, having already passed its 1st and 2nd reading, and the Committee stage. The Bill will then be up for a third and final reading before passing to the House of Lords.
Extension for Redundancy Protection for Pregnancy and Family Leave
Under current legislation, employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave who have been provisionally selected for redundancy must be prioritised for suitable alternative employment (if such an alternative exists).
However, under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, this protection will be extended to include a period from the date that employee informs their employer of their pregnancy, or their intention to take adoption or Shared Parental Leave, until potentially 18 months after the birth or adoption.