26 January 2024

RSM’s legal and HR teams predict the key focus of the HR agenda this year, which includes technological advancements and the new employment laws. 

HR leaders need to think and act strategically; guiding as well as partnering the business in 2024.

Harnessing the power of HR technology

We predict there will be further developments in AI, and that HR Technology, HR chatbots, and the likes of ChatGPT will continue to change the way we operate this year. Has your organisation begun its HR technological journey? If not, then now would be the perfect time to start providing your organisation and its people with a more data driven and digital experience. 

Nearly everything we do is completed on our phones and laptops and employees expect the same convenience from their employers. Business leaders will also expect more high-level dashboard information about their workforce to help them make the right people decisions. 

Harnessing HR data is key to providing the right information. The essential HR metrics for 2024 will be: time to hire; new hire turnover; gender pay gap; cost per hire; absenteeism rate; HR to employee ratio and annual turnover rate.

Creating a better employee experience

The next generation of recruits to the working world are expecting more from their employers than previous cohorts. A more collaborative approach to work where employees have a higher degree of control over their day to day working lives is occurring in many workplaces. Making sure career aspirations and pathways are clear will continue to be important to retain talented individuals. 

Retention is set to continue to be a significant business issue. CIPD reported that younger workers would like more choice around the benefits they can access when looking for new job opportunities. Employers who can offer flexible benefits could find themselves in a stronger position when attracting and retaining talent across generations.

Enabling greater allyship 

Inclusivity across the workforce will and should be high on HR’s to do list this year (if it wasn’t already). The importance of inclusivity and making sure today’s workplace is accessible to more people is paramount. Improving the proportion of under-represented groups in organisations will also be a key theme (especially for growing and middle market organisations). How organisations play their part in creating a society that enables those who want to work with the opportunity to work will be important. Engaging with the communities we work in and leaving a good footprint is key for ESG driven companies.

Good employers have known for years that under-represented groups can change their businesses for the better. Take the example of James Timpson, CEO of the retailer Timpsons, who for years has hired out of prisons, retraining ex-criminals, and giving them a fresh start. This type of recruitment strategy is not only socially conscious but also makes for a better business, with a motivated and loyal workforce which previously would have struggled to be given a chance.

Continued focus on workforce health and wellbeing

Mental health, stress and anxiety have a huge impact on our workforces. It was reported recently that the increase in workers signed off for mental health issues is fuelling growth in the overall amount of time taken as sick leave. The latest figures suggest that 7.8 days per annum is the average number of days taken due to sickness per employee in the UK. Strategies to support employees in this area will continue to be important with initiatives including:

  • investing in good people partners;
  • training line managers;
  • installing mental health champions; and 
  • providing employee assistance lines.

Legislatives changes ahead 

HR teams also need to have the below legislative changes on their agenda for 2024 which will require updates to processes, policies and contracts of employment, as well as training for business partners, advisers and line managers.

New rules on holiday entitlement and pay from 1 January 2024

It may only be January, but holidays remain a hot topic for legal and HR professionals this year. On 1 January 2024, new holiday pay legislation was enacted which confirms:

  • the way employers need to pay holiday to irregular hours workers;
  • the elements of pay that need to be incorporated into the holiday pay of salaried workers; and
  • the new method of calculating holiday pay for workers when they are off sick or taking statutory leave.

It is critical for employers to ensure they are calculating and paying holiday pay in accordance with the law and that they act now to implement the changes introduced under this new legislation. Failure to do so means the employer will be accruing a liability and exposing itself to claims from affected workers. See our article 'Time to review holiday pay processes' for more information. 

Flexible working requests become a day one right

On 6 April 2024, improved flexible working rights will become law, allowing employees a day one right to make two formal flexible working requests per annum. Employers will need to consult with the employees before rejecting the requests and decide on the outcome within two months (instead of three). Employers must update their policies, procedures, and employee handbooks to reflect these changes to the law and review recruitment processes to ensure flexible working is considered at the outset. 

Right to request a predictable working pattern

The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 (the Act) aims to address the problem of ‘one-sided flexibility’ where a worker has no guarantee of work but is expected to be available at short notice when required. The Act will give workers and agency workers the right to request more predictable terms and conditions of work after 26 weeks’ service where there is a lack of predictability to their work pattern. The Act is likely to come into force around September 2024.

Neonatal care introduced

Employees will receive 12 weeks of leave if their child is receiving neonatal care. The right to neonatal care leave is a day one right requiring no set length of service. However the right to receive statutory neonatal care pay requires 26 weeks’ service and earnings on average of at least £123 a week. Neonatal care must have started within 28 days of birth and last for at least seven days. The leave must be taken within 68 weeks of the child’s birth. However, this new right will not take effect until April 2025 when policies, procedures and employee handbooks will need to be updated.

Carers’ leave introduced

From 6 April 2024 carers will be able to take one week’s unpaid leave per annum to look after a dependent with long term care needs, such as those with a disability or old age. The leave is a ‘day one’ right, meaning there is no minimum service requirement to take advantage of it.

Protection from redundancy enhanced for pregnant mothers and family leave returners

There is already protection in place for employees on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave in terms of redundancy. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 extends the priority status to pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity/adoption leave and shared parental leave. This protection starts from 6 April 2024.

Duty to prevent sexual harassment is likely to come into force in October 2024

Under this new law, employers will need to show they have taken reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring in the workplace. Employers should now consider how they will demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. If an employee is successful in bringing a claim against the employer and the employer cannot show reasonable steps were taken to prevent the sexual harassment, the Equality and Human Rights Commission can take enforcement steps and any successful tribunal claim will be subject to a compensation uplift of up to 25%. 

For a conversation about your HR strategy and legal compliance please get in touch with Kerri Constable or Charlie Barnes.

Charlie Barnes
Charlie Barnes
Director, Head of Employment Legal Services
Charlie Barnes
Charlie Barnes
Director, Head of Employment Legal Services