Employment law changes to expect in 2024

From the day-one right to request flexible working to the introduction of rolled-up holiday pay, Georgia Roberts runs through the employment law changes HR must prepare for in 2024.

There are several legislative changes on the horizon for employment law in 2024 which seek to make the workplace fairer. The following are some of the key pieces of legislation coming into force, as well as the dates for enactment.

Family-focused changes

2024 will see two pieces of new legislation (and a third set for 2025) aimed at making the workplace fairer for families.

Real living wage increases to £12 in cost of living boost

The Living Wage Foundation’s ‘real living wage’ has risen to £12 an hour across the UK, a £1.10 increase.

In London, it has increased by £1.20 to £13.15 an hour.

Unlike the government-set national living wage, the ‘real living wage’ is a voluntary rate of pay that employers can choose to give to their staff. 

Over 460,000 people working for the 14,000 real living wage employers will receive this pay rise.

Living Wage Foundation research found 60% of those earning below the real living wage have visited a food bank in the past year and 39% are regularly skipping meals for financial reasons.

AI will not wipe out half of jobs after all, say academics who predicted this

Oxford professors who published a seminal 2013 paper warning of widespread occupational displacement now say the impacts will instead be strike action and wage depression.

The limits of generative AI mean the technology is not likely to displace jobs in a widespread manner, according to research from two Oxford University artificial intelligence and automation experts, revising predictions made by the pair 10 years ago.

The paper, Generative AI and the future of work: a reappraisal, said AI would instead likely impact wage differentials, productivity and strike action. 

One in two candidates back out of an accepted offer

One in two candidates has accepted a job but backed out before starting a new role in the last 12 months, according to a Gartner candidate survey.

The survey revealed that more than a third (35%) had reported receiving four or more offers during their last job search. Of 2,000 who accepted an offer, 47% then admitted to being open to other offers.

Reflecting a continuing tight labour market, 59% of HR leaders surveyed by Gartner said they expected more talent competition over the next three months. Senior director Jamie Kohn said many candidates were “uncommitted to their new employer and keeping one foot in the job market” by accepting offers and considering new ones.

How AI Will Change Hiring

The unveiling of tools like Open AI’s ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Microsoft’s new Bing have certainly meant one thing: Everyone is talking about how generative AI (GAI) may change the way we work. While it’s too early to know exactly what the impact of GAI will be, it’s safe to assume that aspects of people’s work will change and evolve across a range of industries. 

For talent professionals, this raises a lot of questions: How will advances in AI affect talent acquisition jobs? And how will the automation of some tasks transform the skills recruiters need?

Record regular pay growth outstripped by inflation in spring 2023

Inflation continues to outstrip wage growth despite nominal regular pay increasing at its highest rate outside of the Covid-19 pandemic, largely as a result of increases to the national living wage.

The June 2023 labour market figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed that growth in employees’ average regular pay excluding bonuses was 7.2% in February to April 2023, while average total pay including bonuses increased by 6.5%.

However, when adjusted for inflation, pay fell in February to April 2023 compared to the same period last year by 2.0% for total pay and 1.3% for regular pay.

Record numbers not working due to ill health

The number of people not working in the UK due to long-term sickness has risen to a new record, official figures show.

More than two and a half million are not working due to health problems, the Office for National Statistics said.

It blamed an increase in mental health issues in younger people and people suffering back and neck pain, possibly due to home working, for the rise.

Typically, for every 13 people currently working, one person is long-term sick.

Candidate availability up for first time in two years

The availability of candidates rose for the first time in just over two years in March, according to the latest Report on Jobs from KPMG and the REC.

At the same time, starting salaries continue to rise as employers try to attract candidates and the cost of living increases. The total number of vacancies also went up, although growth was slightly slower than in February.

Permanent placements fell for the sixth month in a row, but at a slower pace than previously. The REC said many clients had delayed decisions around hiring due to economic uncertainty and tighter budgets. Temporary hiring rose at the quickest rate since September 2022, however.

The overall supply of workers increased for the first time since February 2021 over the first three months of this year, with rises in availability of candidates for both permanent and temporary work.

Lack of affordable childcare forcing UK women out of work

A lack of affordable childcare in the UK is forcing women out of work and hampering career progression, causing the UK to fall five places in a global index of women’s employment outcomes.

According to PwC’s annual women in work index, which looked at data from 2021, the UK ranked 14th for women’s employment outcomes among OECD countries, down from 9th in 2020.

The UK’s gender pay gap widened by 2.4 percentage points to 14.4% in 2021, four times the average increase across the OECD as a whole. This, coupled with a 0.4 percentage point decline in the female labour force participation rate, led to the UK slipping down PwC’s list.

The average OECD gender pay gap was 14%, based on median hourly earnings.

Employee side hustles: what are the risks for employers?

An increasing number of employees are engaging in ‘side hustles’ as part of a portfolio career, a trend driven by the cost of living crisis, and a desire – perhaps triggered during the Covid-19 pandemic – among employees to engage in monetised activities they enjoy.

From an employer’s perspective, such outside activities can deliver both risks and benefits.

Some employers may decide that side jobs will not be acceptable as a general rule, while others may allow their staff to undertake side hustles, subject to the employer being notified for awareness.

It is therefore crucial that employers consider how they will respond to employees who have side hustles, so that all parties can be clear how these should be treated.