Legislative Employment Changes in the UK, Ireland, and Hong Kong

As part of HSP’s commitment to providing our customers with full end-to-end global expansion guidance and support, we closely monitor and track all potential and active legislative changes that could potentially impact our clients around the world. This month, we’re focusing on three countries that have seen significant changes in employment legislation: Hong Kong, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Please see below for a summary of the changes in employment legislation for these three countries so that you can understand how they may affect you and which actions you should consider taking. 

United Kingdom

Readiness for flexible work reforms in the UK

Currently, employees only have a right to request flexible work changes if they have 26 weeks of service tenure and are restricted to one request per 12-month period. Effective from 6 April 2024, employees will have a day one right and will be permitted two requests in a 12-month period. The current requirement for an employee to explain the impact of their proposed working arrangements will be removed, and there will be a new requirement for employers to fully consult with an employee prior to turning down their request, and the deadline for a decision is reduced to two months from the current three months.

New employment redundancy protection for pregnant women and parents in the UK

It is anticipated that from April 2024, employees who are either pregnant or parents within 18 months of the birth/adoption placement will have a priority right to be offered suitable alternative roles within an organization if their role is removed because of redundancy.

New rights for paternity leave for UK employees

Effective 6 April 2024, eligible employees will be able to take their paternity leave as two non-consecutive blocks. Currently an employee must take the leave as a continuous period of either two weeks or just one week, and if they take just one week, then they remove their right to the other week of leave. Also, from 6 April, the leave can be taken at any time within the first year of birth/adoption rather than within the first eight weeks, and will require a shorter 28-day notice period.

New Carer’s leave in the UK

Currently, employees have a right to reasonable unpaid time off to care for a dependent in an emergency or unexpected circumstances. A new Carer’s Leave will be offered to employees from the first day of employment, allowing for a one-week period of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. It is designed to help employees make more permanent arrangements for long-term care for a dependent. The new entitlement is expected to come into force on 6 April 2024.

How HSP Can Support You

HSP can update your employment contracts and/or work policies to reflect the new changes in the UK’s employment legislation.

UK Health and Safety Legislation

As a UK employer with more than 5 workers in the UK you have a legal obligation to have valid, up-to-date risk assessments and HR policy in place that is compliant with UK legislation.

The UK Health and Safety at Work Act places a series of explicit duties on employers, including:

  • Producing a written policy that explains how they intend to manage health and safety
  • Consulting with staff or their representatives
  • Providing safe plant and systems of work
  • Ensuring the safe use, storage, and movement of articles and substances
  • Provision of adequate welfare facilities
  • Providing appropriate information, instruction, training, and supervision
  • Ensuring safe access and egress from the workplace

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to carry out a risk assessment, which is the cornerstone of an employer’s management of health and safety. This is a process where anything arising from work that may cause harm is identified, assessed, and controlled.

The employer must:

  • Identify all hazards that could cause harm
  • Work out who might be harmed by the hazards and how
  • Consider how likely it is that someone will be harmed, and how serious the harm might be. Based on this information, introduce measures to control the risk “in so far as is reasonably practical”.
  • Employers with five or more members of staff are required to record the significant findings in writing
  • Keep the risk assessment under review to ensure that control measures continue to be applied and to take account of any changes, such as new working practices or machinery

For the sake of good order, it is important to note that where employers are found to be in breach of legislation then the UK courts can impose fines on the Company. The penalty fines are uncapped and serious breaches also carry the risk of imprisonment for up to 2 years. Employers Liability Insurance unfortunately will not cover any fines imposed due to health and safety breaches. 

You may have processes in place to meet these obligations but if not HSP has developed the below scope of support to help our customers meet their obligations:

Stage 1- Health and Safety Risk Assessments

  • Provision of home worker risk assessments and/or office worker risk assessments and instructions on how to carry out the assessments. This stage also includes an assessment of the risk assessments and recommendations for any follow up actions or issues.

Stage 2- Health and Safety Policy

  • Provision of a legally compliant, English only UK health and safety policy, including any recommendations from the stage 1 health and safety risk assessments.

Stage 3- Health and Safety Employee Training Materials

  • Provision of electronic health and safety training documentation for UK based employees.

Hong Kong

More statutory holidays in Hong Kong

Effective from 2024, the number of statutory holidays has been increased from 13 to 14 days this year. The first weekday after Christmas Day will now be a statutory holiday. Common practice is to grant eligibility to employees for ‘general holidays’ instead of ‘ statutory holidays’ in which the first weekday post-Christmas, i.e. 26th December is an existing general holiday. 

Per practice, blue-collar workers or low-level employees working at small-scale locally owned companies are typically offered statutory holidays, and white-collar workers are offered general holidays. Most corporations follow bank holidays, which are general holidays. 

How HSP Can Support You

HSP can update your employment contracts and/or work and leave policies to reflect the changes in Hong Kong’s employment legislation around a newly added public holiday.



Employee status tests for employees in Ireland

On the issue of employment status and sham contractors, the Supreme Court in Ireland has set out a five-part test to determine the true status of the relationship, as follows:

  1. Does the contract involve the exchange of wage or other remuneration for work?
  2. Does the worker agree to provide their own services, and not those of a third party?
  3. Does the employer exercise sufficient control over the worker?
  4. Are the terms of the contract consistent in practice with a contract of employment or with some other form of contract?
  5. Is there anything in the legislative regime that requires the court to adjust or supplement any of the foregoing?

The Government has confirmed that it will update its code of practice to reflect this recent Supreme Court decision.

How HSP Can Support You

HSP can support you in assessing and adjusting your policies and agreements to reflect these changes to employment laws in Ireland. Given that substantial liabilities can flow from a sham contracting arrangement, employers should review existing relationships against the 5-part test and take any necessary action to mitigate the ‘de facto employment’ risk on a case-by-case basis. HSP can support you with this review as well as prepare a compliant contractor agreement (or update existing agreements to ensure compliance). HSP can also provide support with contractor to employee conversion assessments, requirements, gap analyses and drafting of requisite documentation.

Increase to Ireland’s statutory sick leave

Effective from 1 January 2024, the paid statutory sick leave entitlement increases from three days to five days in a year. The entitlement will increase again in 2025, to seven days and once again in 2026, to 10 days.

How HSP Can Support You

HSP can update your staff policies to reflect this change.

Domestic abuse leave for employees in Ireland

Employees can receive paid leave for up to five days in any 12 consecutive months in circumstances where they have experienced, are experiencing, or are at risk of, or is supporting a relevant person, experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

How HSP Can Support You

HSP can update your employee handbooks to include a domestic violence leave policy.

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