At a glance
- Draft Regulations have been published bringing various new employment laws into force.
- The right to request flexible working will become a ‘day one’ right with effect from 6 April 2024
- Carer’s leave in force from 6 April 2024
- Redundancy protection period increased to 18 months for employees who take maternity, adoption or shared parental leave with effect from 6 April 2024
- Code of Practice on “reasonable steps” under the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 issued
As 2023 draws to a close there has been a flurry of employment law activity introducing new rights for employees and new obligations on trade unions.
The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations remove the requirement for employees to have at least 26 weeks’ service to be entitled to make a flexible working request and come into force on 6 April 2024. The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 20 July 2023. The Act will make several changes to the right to request flexible working, including that employees will be entitled to make two requests (instead of one) in any 12-month period and employers will have to respond to a request within two months (reduced from three months). Guidance will be published in January 2024.
The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 bring into force the right to take one week’s unpaid carer’s leave per year for employees with a caring responsibility for a dependant. Eligible employees can take the leave as half or full days, up to and including taking a block of a whole week of leave at once. The required notice period is twice as many days as the period of leave required, in advance of the earliest day of the leave and does not need to be in writing. An employer can postpone a period of carer’s leave where this would unduly disrupt the operation of their business but must give notice as soon as is reasonably practicable and following consultation with the employee, confirm a new date on which they can take the leave within a month of the original date(s) requested.
The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 will extend the protection against redundancy for employees who take maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave to 18 months following the expected week of childbirth, placement for adoption. In the case of shared parental leave, the extension only applies if the employee has taken at least six consecutive weeks of shared parental leave. Employees can still be made redundant during this period, but have preferential treatment with regard to suitable alternative employment. The legislation comes into force on 6 April 2024.
The Department for Business and Trade has issued the Code of Practice on the “reasonable steps” which trade unions will be required to take to encourage compliance with work notices issued under the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023. The Code came into effect on 8 December 2023, but no minimum service levels will be imposed until implemented by secondary legislation. So far, implementing legislation has been made imposing minimum service levels in border security, passenger rail services and NHS ambulance and non-emergency patient transfer services.
Employers will need to update their family friendly policies to take account of the new rights and ensure that line managers are aware of their obligations.
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