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April 2024: what has changed in employment law?


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This April is a busy month for employment practitioners, with a number of key employment law changes now in force. In this blog, we provide a reminder of what’s new in employment law:

1. Flexible working

On 6 April 2024, the right to request flexible working became a day one right. As a result, all employees now have the right to request flexible working regardless of their length of service (previously you needed 26 weeks’ service).

In addition, regulations introduced at the end of March also confirmed the commencement of the following changes from 6 April:

  • Employees can make two flexible working requests in 12 months (but only one at a time).
  • Employers have two months in which to respond.
  • Employers must consult with employees before refusing a request.
  • Employees no longer need to explain the impact of their request.

The revised statutory Acas Code of Practice on requests for flexible working is also now in force and should be followed by employers when dealing with flexible working requests. Although a failure to follow the Code does not directly give rise to liability in legal proceedings, Employment Tribunals will take the Code into account when considering relevant cases. 

For HR teams, as a minimum you should ensure your policies and procedures are updated to reflect these changes. It may also be helpful to provide additional training or know-how for managers on how to deal with such requests fairly. In particular, managers should be aware that requests can now be made by newly recruited staff, since this is a change to previous practice.

For details of the changes, see our blog: Where next for flexible working?

2. Protection from redundancy

For a long time, in a rare form of positive discrimination, women on maternity leave and employees on adoption or shared parental leave have in a redundancy situation had the right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy where available in priority over employees.

As of 6 April, the law has now extended this right to both:

  • Pregnant employees, from the date they inform their employer of their pregnancy, and
  • Those returning from long-term family leave (ie maternity leave, adoption leave and statutory parental leave if over six consecutive weeks long). The period of protection will last for 18 months after the date of childbirth/adoption, regardless of how much leave the employee takes, and so in most cases will include a period of time when the employee is back at work following leave.

This is a significant additional protection since it extends the length of the “priority status” period for eligible employees, potentially giving rise to a greater number of protected individuals in a redundancy situation. While no immediate action is needed, it will need to be considered carefully if you are planning any redundancy exercises from this point onwards, to ensure suitable alternative vacancies are identified and offered to the full category of individuals now protected. A failure to look for suitable alternative vacancies for protected individuals could risk potential claims for automatically unfair dismissal or possible discrimination.

3. Changes to holiday pay and entitlement

For any holiday years starting from now onwards, employers will have the option to calculate holiday pay and entitlement in two new ways for part-year and irregular hours workers (as defined in the statute):

  • A new method of calculating annual leave based on an accrual method, calculated at 12.07 per cent of hours worked in a pay period.
  • Rolled up holiday pay (the practice of including an amount for holiday pay on top of a worker’s normal hourly rate, paid at the time they perform the work, rather than when they are on holiday).

The Government has published guidance on calculating holiday entitlement and pay for part-year and irregular hours workers here. This was updated on 1 April 2024.  The main change is that in the original version, the guidance included the example of “Ian”, someone who worked part of the year with annualised pay.  The guidance said Ian would not qualify as a part-year worker because there were no weeks where he did not receive pay. 

In the latest version of the guidance, the government has removed this example and instead included a paragraph which suggests it may be possible for someone to qualify as a part-year worker if they are paid ‘during’ periods they are not working, provided that there is no expectation for them to work in that period and they are not paid ‘for’ that period.  Although this change does not alter the underlying law in any way, it does provide scope for those engaged for part of the year but paid annualised pay to come within the statutory definition of part-year worker.

For more information, see our Holiday reforms Q&A.

4. Carer’s Leave

The Carer's Leave Regulations 2024 are now in force. These give employees the right to apply for up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave in any 12-month period:

  • There is no service requirement for taking carer’s leave (it is a ‘day one’ right).
  • The leave must be used to care for a dependent with a long-term care need.
  • The minimum period of leave that can be taken is half a working day, up to a maximum of one week. It does not need to be taken in consecutive blocks.
  • Employees must give notice of their wish to take carer’s leave (either twice as long as the period of leave requested or three days’ notice, whichever is longer).
  • Employers may postpone carer’s leave if they reasonably consider it will unduly disrupt their business, but must allow it to be taken within one month of the initial request.
  • Employees do not need to provide evidence in relation to a request for carer’s leave and employers cannot require them to provide it.
  • Employees who take carer’s leave will be protected from detriment or dismissal as a result.

Employers should ensure that their relevant policies are updated to reflect this change.

For further information, see Carer’s Leave Act 2023 – an update.

5. Paternity Leave

Greater flexibility has been introduced to statutory paternity leave for employees where the expected week of childbirth is after 6 April 2024, or the expected date of placement for adoption is after this date. In summary:

  • Leave can be taken in two separate one-week blocks, and may be taken at any time within the first year after birth or adoption.
  • Employees need to give 28 days’ notice of their intention to take leave (or seven days of being matched in cases of adoption).
  • Employees must still give notice of their entitlement to take leave 15 weeks before the expected week of birth.

Again, paternity leave policies should be updated in light of these changes. Further information can be found in our blog: Paternity leave and Employment Tribunal fees: an update.

What other employment law changes are expected and when?

These are not the only changes to employment law taking place in the next 12 months, with the following changes also on the horizon:

1 July 2024

Changes to TUPE relating to when employers can consult directly with employees comes into force.

Important employment law reforms announced

Summer 2024

The new Code of Practice on Dismissal and Re-engagement is expected to be brought into force.

Updated draft code on “fire and rehire” published

September 2024

A new statutory right for eligible workers to request a more predictable working pattern is expected to come into force.

Latest Employment Law Reforms Update

26 October 2024

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will come into force. This will require employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees in the course of their employment.

Employment law updates you might have missed

April 2025

Changes to neonatal care will come into force (under the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023). Eligible employees whose new-born baby is admitted to neo-natal care will be able to take up to 12 weeks additional paid leave.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, April 2024

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About the authors

Amy Wren lawyer photo

Amy Wren

Senior Counsel

Amy is a Senior Counsel and Knowledge Lawyer in the employment team, providing expert technical legal support to the team and leading its know-how function. Given the fast-changing nature of employment law, Amy ensures the team is at the forefront of all legal changes and can provide the best possible advice to our clients.

Amy is a Senior Counsel and Knowledge Lawyer in the employment team, providing expert technical legal support to the team and leading its know-how function. Given the fast-changing nature of employment law, Amy ensures the team is at the forefront of all legal changes and can provide the best possible advice to our clients.

Email Amy +44 (0)20 3375 7627
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