New Employment Laws in the UK: Here’s What You Need to Know

UK's Employment Law guide placed on table with a specs on top of it

The employment landscape in the UK is undergoing a significant transformation with the recent implementation of several new regulations in April 2024. These legislative updates not only impact businesses but will also reshape the entitlements and experiences of employees across the nation.  

It is critical for businesses to remain informed so they can maintain regulatory compliance and uphold the welfare of their workforce. While change is often challenging, we perceive the new regulations in the UK as an opportunity rather than a roadblock. This new wave of regulations presents a chance to foster people-first workplaces that are more inclusive and supportive for everyone.  

In this blog post, we outline the recent regulatory changes in the UK, exploring their implications and significance for businesses. Additionally, we discuss how cross-border HR solutions can empower international companies to navigate evolving global regulations with agility while promoting productivity and people-first workplaces. 

New minimum wage rates in effect

The UK Government, as of April 1st, 2024, is enforcing new national minimum wage rates, including the National Living Wage.  

The substantial increase to £11.44 for individuals aged 21 and over marks the country’s most significant ever rise in the minimum wage in cash terms. This reflects the robust growth in pay across various sectors and underscores the government’s commitment to improving standards of living for workers. 

The set rates are as follows:

Rate Category NMW Rate Increase in pence Percentage increase
National Living Wage (21 and over)   £11.44   £1.02   9.8% 
18-20 Year Old Rate  £8.60   £1.11  14.8% 
16-17 Year Old Rate  £6.40  £1.12  21.2% 
Apprentice Rate  £6.40  £1.12  21.2% 
Accommodation Offset  £9.99  £0.89  9.8% 

Adjustments to paternity leave

Starting from April 6th, 2024, amendments to paternity leave regulations will grant fathers and partners increased flexibility in taking time off during the first year after childbirth or adoption.  

This update allows for leave to be split into two periods, offering greater support and involvement for new parents during this important time for a family. 

The update also provides that paternity leave should end within 52 weeks of the birth (or due date if the baby is born early). 

Embracing flexible work

Also effective from April 6th, 2024, amendments to flexible working regulations empower employees to request flexible working arrangements twice a year without needing to provide justification. Simultaneously, employers are required to respond to such requests within two months. Employees are also now able to request flexible working from their first day of employment. 

These updates are intended to foster a more adaptable and accommodating work environment. 

New regulations for carer’s leave

The introduction of new regulations for carer’s leave, taking effect on April 6th, 2024 offers additional leave entitlements for employees with caring responsibilities.  

This new framework grants employees the statutory right to take up to one week of unpaid leave per year to care for a spouse, civil partner, child, parent or other dependent who requires assistance due to disability, old age or an illness or injury expected to last at least three months.  

This leave is available from the first day of employment and does not require a qualifying period. However, employees must provide at least three days’ notice before taking carer’s leave.   

Employers cannot refuse a request for carer’s leave but they may be able to postpone it if they can demonstrate that approving the leave would unduly disrupt business operations. The maximum duration of carer’s leave is one week per year. 

Enhanced protection for maternity, adoption and shared parental leave

Amendments to maternity, adoption and shared parental leave regulations are effective as of April 6, 2024, extending additional protection against redundancy for employees in these circumstances.  

In the previous framework, employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave already enjoyed special protection in a redundancy situation. Updates to the framework extend this priority status to pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity, adoption leave and shared parental leave.   

If you believe an employee may be eligible for this new protection, then it is worth checking the criteria. For example, a pregnant employee who takes maternity leave is protected for 18 months from the child’s date of birth if they notify the employer before the end of maternity leave. Fathers taking sufficient shared parental leave are also protected for 18 months. 

Family-related pay increases

The UK is enforcing increases in family-friendly payments beginning April 7, 2024. 

This new regulation includes maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental and parental bereavement pay. These payments will rise to £184.03 from £172.48, providing increased support for employees during family-related absences. 

Statutory sick pay also increases

The rate for statutory sick pay (SSP) has increased from £109.40 to £116.75, starting April 6, 2024. This adjustment ensures employees on sick leave receive adequate financial support, reflecting changes in the cost of living across the UK. 

Looking ahead: a people-first approach

With the pace of legislative changes in the UK showing no signs of slowing down, it’s important for businesses to stay proactive and anticipate future developments.  

Calls for more comprehensive employment legislation in the future, including the establishment of a single enforcement body, underscore the country’s evolving regulatory landscape. These proposed reforms highlight the government’s commitment to enhancing worker protection and streamlining regulatory enforcement, signaling further changes on the horizon for businesses operating in the UK.  

Adapting to these changes requires a forward-thinking, people-first approach that prioritizes compliance and agility. 

How cross-border HR solutions can help

Navigating the complexities of employment compliance can be daunting, particularly for international companies operating in countries where their internal HR team may lack familiarity with the local regulatory environment. This challenge is compounded by the necessity of setting up an in-country legal entity to hire employees.  

These burdens can be alleviated through Employer of Record (EOR) hiring and other cross-border HR solutions. 

Partnering with an EOR partner not only provides expert guidance on the implications of new legislative frameworks but also eliminates the need for establishing an in-country legal entity. This allows companies to quickly adjust to evolving regulations without facing the logistical challenges associated with setting up a legal entity, managing a local corporate risk footprints and handling tax reporting requirements. 

The EOR partner takes care of various HR administrative tasks, including onboarding, payroll processing, statutory benefits, tax contributions and more. By integrating EOR hiring with additional cross-border HR services such as recruitment, independent contractor management and supplemental benefits administration, businesses can enhance their global talent management strategy. 

With these comprehensive solutions in place, organizations can confidently navigate the evolving global HR landscape while remaining focused on their core business objectives. 

Check out our ‘What is an EOR?’ guide, view our HR at a Glance country guides or contact us to talk with an international HR expert about how cross-border HR solutions can enhance your global talent management strategy.