Gearing Up For UK Law Changes: What You Need To Know

This year has already brought major shifts in the UK’s employment and immigration policies.

For example, we’ve already started to see the effects of the new immigration policy implemented on the 11th of March stating that care workers are unable to bring dependents (such as children and partners) into the UK on their visas when they immigrate. 

For business owners, legal professionals, and those who are hoping to immigrate to the UK,  maintaining an up-to-date understanding of incoming laws is not just beneficial—it’s essential. 

The year ahead brings with it several more significant legal updates that will impact the way businesses treat their employees and handle their staffing strategies, and how those attempting to secure a Visa in the future will navigate the immigration process.

This article will provide a summary of the legal changes on the horizon, and what you can do to prepare for them. 

Employment Laws Make Way for New Rights

You can expect to see some of the most impactful employment law changes implemented in early April 2024. These changes include:

A New Era for Carers

Beginning the 6th of April, the introduction of statutory carer’s leave affords employees the right to one week of unpaid leave each year to perform care duties, applicable from their first day in a new role. These employees will have to give a minimum amount of advance notice before taking these days. 

Flexibility in the Workplace

Also beginning on the 6th of April, the window for employees to request flexible working arrangements is expanding. Now, from day one, workers can request a more flexible schedule. Previously, they would require 26 weeks of service to make requests of this nature. 

Prioritising Pregnant Staff

In the case of organisational change or redundancy, employers are expected to prioritise the retention of pregnant staff. This is alongside staff that are on maternity and paternity leave. This extension of existing protections commences on 6th April and means proactive measures must be taken to avoid dismissing pregnant workers.

The rest of these changes will occur at different points throughout the year. While we don’t have the full details currently, we expect these changes will consist of:

Clear Policies on Tipping

Looking ahead to July 2024, businesses face a new requirement concerning tips. It will be unlawful for employers to withhold money earned by staff from tips. We expect that the hospitality sector will be most impacted by this change. 

Stability in Working Hours

By September 2024, the landscape shifts again, focusing on workers with unpredictable hours. Employees will have the right to request more stable working patterns. We expect requests will be accepted after 26 weeks of employment. Those on zero-hour contracts, working as agency staff, or under fixed-term agreements of less than a year will likely feel the largest impact from this policy change.

Prevention of Harassment

The forthcoming Worker Protection Act in October 2024 places greater responsibility on businesses to combat sexual harassment. Taking “reasonable steps” to prevent such behavior will be obligatory, with potential repercussions for non-compliant organizations.

Neonatal Care Leave

And finally, in October 2024, parental rights are receiving a momentous change. Parents of neonates requiring care will be granted up to 12 weeks of additional paid leave. Employers will have to consider this on top of maternity and paternity leave.

How Can Employers Prepare for These Changes?

We understand that UK business owners will have a lot to consider when it comes to implementing these changes. Here are just a few ways you can begin to prepare to integrate these changes into your business operations: 

  • Assess your current procedures surrounding leave, tips, working hours, harassment, etc. You will want to make sure they are up to date promptly, in line with new policies.
  • Employers should seek to create a fair and responsive system ready to handle the leave requests they will receive from employees seeking to take time off for Statutory Care or Neonatal Leave.
  • You should create a similar system to handle new flexible working requests, and then later, requests for more stable working hours.
  • You will want to ensure that your policies and employee handbooks are all up to date, and cover how your business plans to manage these changes.
  • You may want to offer staff training to update the whole team on the business’s policies and codes of conduct. leaders of your business will need to be made aware of how changes regarding leave requests, managing tips, preventing harassment, etc, should be managed.

Immigration Law Shifts

On the immigration front, several pressing changes are imminent:

Rising Skilled Worker Visa Salary Thresholds

From the 4th of April, the UK government will increase the minimum salary required for a Skilled Worker visa from £26,200 to £38,700. This change carries significant implications for industries reliant on skilled immigrant labor.

Adjustments to the Shortage Occupation List

Also beginning on the 4th of April, the government is replacing the Shortage Occupation List with an interim Immigration Salary List, which will later be reviewed. The government’s intention with this change is to decrease the number of jobs allowing sponsorship of a Skilled Worker Visa applicant for less than the standard minimum salary.

Spouse/Partner Visa Income Requirements

Additionally, as of the 11th of April,  the financial requirements for a spouse or partner applying under Appendix FM will climb progressively, initially rising to £29,000, but with plans to push it to an eventual benchmark of around £38,700.

Graduate Visa Review

Lastly, there is an ongoing review of the Graduate visa, stemming from the government’s desire to assess whether the Graduate Visa route is meeting wider objectives and attracting/retaining the most promising new talent to the UK. The Home Secretary is seeking a report by the 14th of May

Preparing for the Future

As we grapple with these forthcoming legal changes, it is evident that sound legal advice will be necessary. You can count on the Tann Law team to help you navigate these complex waters.

In regards to immigration, we know that every case is unique. As a result, there is no set advice we can give in this article that would benefit every individual’s specific situation. 

We instead implore you to reach out to our team. We have extensive experience handling various unique cases, so we can discuss yours with you and come up with a solution personal to your circumstances. 

As for businesses dealing with employment changes, while we have provided a list of ideas for how you can handle the policy shifts, we still invite you to reach out and consult with Tann Law legal experts to ensure you are poised for compliance and ready to harness these changes to your advantage. Shifts in legal requirements such as these can be overwhelming. You can find out how to get in contact here if you’d like to talk with a member of our team. We’re here to help you navigate these changes, so don’t feel afraid to get in touch.