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How 2024 employment law changes will impact the media and technology industries

14 February 2024

Our recent survey of 200 media and tech business leaders revealed a range of opportunities and challenges facing the sector over the next year. But as 2024 brings several changes to employment law, focusing on pay, diversity and talent – all of which will have some impact on workforce issues – we now take a look at how these changes will affect the sector. 

Workforce woes

A key finding from our survey is that the challenge of finding the right people remains a critical business issue, with 78.5% of respondents reporting that they find recruiting new staff somewhat, or extremely difficult. Challenges posed by hybrid working, sickness absence, performance and organisational restructures are stretching HR and people teams. However, it’s critical for businesses to ensure any legislative changes are carefully planned for and well implemented. This will help keep them on a par with competitors in attracting the best talent, and avoid the unnecessary and costly exposure to HR complaints or tribunal claims.

Another standout finding was that 83% of respondents reported layoffs of between 5% and 25% over the last year. Employment costs are not the only expenditure that boards are having to manage as investors ask to see returns and progress in both the immediate and medium term.

In our survey, we found that within the media and technology industries, all respondents had some form of BAME representation in their leadership team. However, very few leadership teams reported more than 50% representation. One specific challenge to address in the United Kingdom is maintaining healthy levels of skilled immigration. The government often cites the success of Silicon Valley as an aspirational goal. But if the UK is to achieve this level of success, embracing an inflow of skilled talent is essential. Skilled migration enhances the wider ecosystem, bringing in diverse ideas and innovation. This is particularly important in a sector that is defined by pushing boundaries.

So, what are the key new employment laws, and what should businesses prioritise?

Holiday pay must reflect commission and some bonuses

1 January 2024

New holiday pay legislation came into effect from 1 January 2024, following a recent government consultation, and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. While there were several changes introduced, tech sector businesses must pay particular attention to how commission, and potentially bonuses, must be included in holiday pay calculations. As a result, holiday pay will increase for businesses that are not already including these pay components.

However, it may surprise some that this law has been in place for nearly a decade. It’s only now that it is being ‘codified’ into UK legislation. There are still some uncertainties around what should be included, but businesses must undertake a review of their employment contracts, HR and payroll processes to avoid the risk of non-compliance.

With the Supreme Court recently confirming that holiday pay liabilities can go back two years, employers need to plan carefully for these changes to avoid accruing a holiday pay liability. 

Flexible working rights from day one

6 April 2024

Instead of having to wait 26 weeks, employees will be able to make a flexible working request from day one, and up to two formal flexible working requests per annum (currently it’s just one). The time limit to consider a request is also reducing from three months to two months. While policies will need to be updated, the day one entitlement means businesses should consider flexible working during the recruitment process to prevent an unexpected request early in the employment.

With candidates prioritising flexible and hybrid work in their job search, this may already be a change which most employers are comfortable with. However, it’s a good opportunity to revisit processes to ensure they operate effectively, and for line managers and HR to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Those who have not yet adapted to this change will need to do so. Not only might it expose the business to the risks of an HR complaint or claim, it may even be the differentiator for a candidate choosing between you and a competitor.

Carers entitled to unpaid leave

6 April 2024

From the start of their employment, 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. 

Employers must demonstrate prevention of sexual harassment

October 2024

Employers will need to show they have taken reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring in the workplace. Employers should consider how they will demonstrate this, as 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. Any successful tribunal claim will be subject to a compensation uplift of up to 25%. 

Not only can these cases be costly to defend and extremely damaging to reputations, but they can also negatively impact recruitment, staff retention and diversity. Businesses must therefore take steps to mitigate the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace to protect their employees.

For more information, please get in touch with Charlie Barnes or your usual RSM contact.

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