Like Indiana Jones snatching his hat before the door comes down, the government has pushed through a number of key employment law changes ahead of the dissolution of Parliament for the 2024 General Election.

Which employment law reforms have been included in this period of ‘wash-up’ and when will they take effect for employers?

Paternity Bereavement Leave

New entitlements to additional leave following a bereavement will be brought into effect under the Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act 2024. This Act was passed into law on 24 May 2024 and the detail of the entitlements under the Act will be introduced through separate regulations.

So, there is no change for employers for the time being until the regulations are passed. But, when this Act is fully implemented, the usual paternity leave eligibility requirement of 26-weeks’ service will be disapplied for fathers and partners where the mother dies during childbirth / in the first year after birth. Although not set out in the Act itself, we understand that regulations will also provide for paternity leave to be extended to 52 weeks in these circumstances. Similar arrangements will apply for surrogacy and adoption.

Fair distribution of Tips: new legislation and Code of Practice

In May 2023, the government passed legislation which will require employers to ensure that tips and gratuities are distributed fairly amongst staff. This reform was introduced under the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 (the ‘Tips Act’). More information about this development is available in our recent article in Personnel Today, written by TLT Partner, Amy Stokes.

Originally timetabled for July 2024 implementation, it is now expected that the Tips Act will come fully into force in October 2024. The government has now also approved the draft Code of Practice on the fair and transparent distribution of tips and this is also expected to come into effect in October 2024.

Dismissal and Re-engagement Code of Practice

Although the government declined to introduce new legislation in response to public concern about the use of dismissal and re-engagement practices (or, ‘fire and re-hire’) it did decide to introduce a new statutory Code of Practice on Dismissal and Re-engagement (the ‘Code’). Employment Tribunals will be required to take the Code into account when deciding claims. An employer’s failure to follow the Code will result in an uplift on compensation of up to 25%.

The Code was approved by the government in April 2024 and an Order has now been passed which will bring the Code into effect on 18 July 2024. The Code will only apply where a dismissal and re-engagement procedure has commenced on or after 18 July 2024. The approved Code is available here.

Employers will need to familiarise themselves with the step-by-step process in the Code and ensure that its requirements are reflected in any dismissal and re-engagement procedures. However, the broad principles in the Code reflect the same general principles which would ordinarily be followed as part of good industrial relations practice – including, for example, engaging in meaningful consultation and re-examination of proposals by the employer. Ultimately, employers will still have the option to unilaterally impose new contractual terms by issuing notice and re-engaging on new terms.

Note that the Labour Party has committed to ending the practice of ‘fire and re-hire’ altogether should it win the 2024 General Election. However, that does not necessarily mean that any new Labour Government would prevent the Code from coming into force in July.

Non-disclosure agreements and criminal disclosures

Following on from commitments to clarify the law around disclosures related to criminal acts, the government has passed the Victims and Prisoners Act 2024.

This Act will void provisions in any agreements which purport to prevent a victim (or someone who reasonably believes they are a victim) from making disclosures about criminal acts to law enforcement agencies, regulators or professional advisors/support services.

Regulations implementing these provisions will made in due course.

In the employment context, these provisions are largely intended to clarify that confidentiality agreements (or, ‘gagging orders’) – whether as standalone Non-Disclosure Agreements or as part of COT3 or Settlement Agreements - cannot operate to prevent the reporting of sexual harassment/assault or to prevent victims obtaining support.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2024. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Date published

11 June 2024

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