April 2024: A summary of employment law changes coming into effect this month

Various changes to employment laws come into effect during April 2024,  largely impacting on family-friendly rights but also on statutory pay rates and holiday pay rules. For information on the changes to holiday pay, in effect from 1 April,  read our separate blog post. The new statutory pay rates,  which apply from 6 April,  can be found on our rates and limits page. The changes to flexible working and family-friendly rights are summarised below.

Flexible working

With effect from 6 April the right to request flexible working becomes a ‘day 1’ right with no qualifying period of service. Other changes being made to the current flexible working regime are:

  • When making a request, an employee will no longer have to explain what effect, if any, they think their requested change would have on the employer and how any such effect might be dealt with.
  • The current limitation restricting an employee to one request in any 12-month period will be revised. An employee will be entitled to make two requests in any 12-month period. However, it will not be possible to make a further application while another application to the same employer is already proceeding.
  • An employer will not be permitted to refuse a request unless the employee has been consulted.
  • The time for an employer to make a decision about a request will be reduced from three to two months.

To support businesses in managing flexible working requests and employees in making requests, a revised ACAS Code of Practice on requests for flexible working will also come into force on 6 April.

Carer’s leave

Regulations have been implemented to introduce a new statutory right to unpaid carer’s leave which also comes into effect on 6 April.

  • The regulations entitle employees to be absent on leave for the purpose of providing or arranging care for a dependant with a long-term care need.
  • Any employee who meets the eligibility criteria will be able to take leave, regardless of their length of service.
  • Leave will be available to take in increments of half days or individual days, up to a maximum of one week in total, to be taken over a 12-month period.

 Paternity leave

Amendments made to existing parental leave regulations take effect in relation to children whose expected week of childbirth begins after 6 April 2024 and children whose expected date of placement for adoption, or expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption, is on or after 6 April 2024. The amended regulations introduce the following key changes to the paternity leave regime:

  • To allow fathers and partners to take their leave and pay as two non-consecutive blocks of one week, rather than only in one block of either one or two weeks.
  • To allow fathers and partners to take their leave and pay at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of their child, rather than only within the first eight weeks after adoption or birth.
  • To shorten, in most cases, the notice period required for each period of leave and pay.
  • To allow a father or partner who has given an initial notice to vary any dates given if they give 28 days’ notice of the variation.

 Protection against redundancy

New regulations extend existing requirements that apply to employers when a redundancy situation arises where an employee is on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. The redundancy protection is extended to apply both during pregnancy and for the period of 18 months after the birth or placement of a child for those taking maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

Where the protected period covers pregnancy, the new rules apply where the employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024. Where it relates to a period after relevant leave, the new rules apply to maternity and adoption leave ending on or after 6 April 2024 and to a period of six consecutive weeks’ shared parental leave starting on or after 6 April 2024.

What’s next

The family-friendly changes coming into effect this month require employers to update or implement relevant policies and procedures and publicise those across their business. A further family-friendly development is scheduled for April 2025 when neo-natal leave and pay will come into effect. The most significant employment law development this year, however, is likely to be the new duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of their employees, which will come into effect in October. Preparation for compliance with this duty is likely to require reviews of policies as well as practices, procedures and employee training and employers are recommended to start planning for this change sooner rather than later.

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