News & Insights

April Changes to Employment Law

New employment legislation is taking effect on 6 April 2024.

Changes have already been made to the National Minimum Wage, and the limit on statutory redundancy pay is increasing from £643 to £700 per week from 6 April 2024. There are also changes to statutory sick pay (up from £109.40 to £116.75 per week) and the rates for statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental and parental bereavement pay (up from £172.48 to £184.03 per week), taking effect on 6 April 2024 and 7 April 2024 respectively.

In addition, three new pieces of employment legislation will come into force on 6 April 2024.

Flexible Working

As it stands, employees are only entitled to request flexible working arrangements after they have been in employment for 26 weeks and can only make such a request once in every 12-month period. Employers have up to three months to deal with these requests and can currently reject them without providing any explanation.

The new Employment Rights (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will make several significant changes to the current status quo on flexible working. The right to request flexible working will now be a day-one right for employees. Employees will also be able to make two requests in every 12-month period, as opposed to one. Employers must now deal with the request within two months of receiving it, rather than three, and must provide the employee with the reasons for their decision if the request is rejected.

It is anticipated that these changes will increase the number of flexible working requests made, particularly by new employees. The increased number of requests, coupled with the additional obligations on employers to deal with the requests more quickly and provide explanations for rejections, will place an increased burden on employers.

We would recommend that employers have in place comprehensive flexible working policies, updated to reflect the new changes. This will help to ensure that employees understand what is required from them when making a request and that management and human resources are aware of their obligations and have a clear process.

Carer’s Leave

The new Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will give employees a day-one right to take unpaid leave in relation to caring responsibilities. The Act applies to anyone caring for a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or other dependant, where that person require care because of a disability, old age, or any illness or injury likely to require at least three months’ care.

Employees can take up to one week of leave per year. Employers cannot deny a request to take carer’s leave, but they can postpone the leave if they reasonably consider that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted were the leave to be approved. If the employer postpones the leave, they must agree an alternative date that is within one month of the requested leave date.

It is likely that your organisation will have employees who will want to make use of this new statutory right. We would recommend that employers introduce carer’s leave policies, clearly setting out how employees ought to request periods of leave. Given that this is an entirely new form of statutory leave, it is likely that some management staff will not be aware of its existence, nor the fact that a request cannot be refused. It is therefore vital that they are familiarised with this new legislation and any new policies.

Widening of Redundancy Protection

Currently, employees on maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave receive special protection in redundancy scenarios. This special protection entitles such employees to be offered suitable alternative employment when facing redundancy.

From 6 April 2024, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will extend this special protection to pregnant employees and those employees who have recently returned from maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave.

In the case of pregnant employees, the protection will now apply from the point that they inform their employer that they are pregnant. As for employees returning from maternity leave or shared parental leave, the protection will apply for 18 months from the date of childbirth, while employees returning from adoption leave will be protected for 18 months from the date of the adoption placement.

This will be another factor for employers to consider when managing redundancy processes, adding some additional complexity. If you are unsure as to whether any of your “at-risk” employees might qualify for this special protection, we would recommend that you obtain legal advice.

If you require employment law advice in relation to any of these changing areas, or would like us to draft or update policies for you, please do get in touch at [email protected]