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Employment law changes 2024: guide for schools and colleges

Happy new year to all our readers.

2024 will be a busy year for HR teams advising schools and colleges. 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.  

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


We’re running a free update webinar on Tuesday 30 January 2024 to help you prepare for these changes. You can sign up to attend here

We are also working through many of these changes with schools and colleges and will publish additional information. Watch this space!

Pay and Wages

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 (such as term-time workers). 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. 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 bonus payments, 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.

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National minimum wage

There are some hefty wage increases employers will need to factor in for low paid staff. 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. 

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Family rights

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 Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 will extend the current protection so that it applies to women from the point they tell their employer they are pregnant and for an additional protected period following their return to work (calculated from the first day of the expected week of childbirth for a period of 18 months).

This means that, if an employee takes their full 12 months of statutory maternity leave, they’ll receive an extra six months of protection following their return to work. 

New parents returning to work from adoption or shared parental leave will also be protected for a similar additional period.

The new right will come into force on 6 April 2024.

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Carer’s leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 will introduce one week's unpaid leave to help employees with long-term caring responsibilities balance these with their paid work. It will be a “day one” right and leave can be taken in one single block or in individual days or half days.

The new right will come into force on 6 April 2024.

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Neo-natal care

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act enables employed parents whose newborn baby is admitted to neonatal care to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to any other leave they are entitled to take. 

It will be implemented ‘in due course’ and will require amendments to tax legislation. 

Working patterns

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 a request from the first day of their employment and up to two requests each year. Employers will have to deal with applications (and any appeals) within two months but 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 right to make a request from day one will come into force on 6 April 2024 and we expect the other changes to come into force at the same time.

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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 on broadly the same grounds that apply to the right to turn down flexible working requests. 

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. 

Read more


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.

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Equality Act 2010 amendments

The Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023 make a number of amendments to the Equality Act 2010, which shall take effect on 1 January 2024. 

The amendments include an expanded definition of ‘disability’, protection for breastfeeding mothers from direct sex discrimination in the workplace, protection from direct sex discrimination relating to pregnancy or maternity (expanded wording), allowing individuals to bring indirect discrimination claims by association, and changes to the law relating to comparators for equal pay purposes.

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Trade unions

Changes to check-off rules

New regulations which come into force on 9 May will only allow relevant public sector employers to deduct union membership subscriptions from the salaries of their staff (a process known as ‘check-off’) if:

  • Staff have the option to pay for their trade union subs by another means; and
  • Arrangements have been made for the union to make a ‘reasonable’ payment to the employer to cover the costs associated with making deductions from payroll

The government has also laid draft regulations before parliament, coming into force on the same day, which:

  • Set out the relevant public sector employers affected by this change; and
  • Provide that an employment contract or collective agreement which, immediately before 9 May 2024, contained a provision permitting or requiring a specified relevant public sector employer to make deductions from its workers’ wages in respect of trade union subscriptions is to be treated as if it prohibited any deduction from workers’ wages in respect of trade union subscriptions otherwise than in accordance with the new rules.

The government has published new guidance which includes answers to FAQs to help employers prepare for these changes.

Immigration and the right to work in in the UK

New immigration rules

Significant changes to the immigration system are set to come into force in Spring 2024. 

The key changes include the minimum salary for a skilled worker visa rising from £26,200 to £38,700 in all sectors save for health and care, limits on migrants bringing family members to live in the UK unless they earn £38,700 (currently £18,600), the annual immigration health surcharge increasing by 66% to £1,035 and the Shortage Occupation List being replaced with a new Immigration Salary List. 

The government confirmed just before Xmas that the limits on bringing family members to live in the UK will only apply to first-time visa applicants: ‘those who already have a family visa within the five-year partner route, or who apply before the minimum income threshold is raised, will continue to have their applications assessed against the current income requirement and will not be required to meet the increased threshold’. 

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Increased fines for illegal workers

From January 2024, the maximum civil penalty for employing an illegal worker is set to triple from £15,000 to £45,000 for a first breach and from £20,000 to £60,000 for repeat breaches (amounts are per illegal worker). 

Other changes

TUPE consultations

From 1 January 2024, businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and businesses of any size carrying out a small TUPE transfer of fewer than 10 employees, will be able to inform and consult directly with affected employees where there are no existing worker representatives in place.

Status of EU law

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 was passed in June and comes into force on 1 January 2024. EU law will be retained unless it is specifically revoked or amended and will be known as ‘assimilated law’. It abolishes the principle of the supremacy of EU law, giving domestic law priority over EU law where it conflicts.  Further, it will be easier for the UK courts and tribunals to depart from assimilated case law; tribunals will be able to refer questions to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to decide whether it can depart from previously binding case law. This is likely to lead to uncertainty. 

General election

A general election is due to take place in at some point in 2024. if the current Conservative government lose, then we're likely to see further change. Labour has set out some of the changes it wants to make to employment law.

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