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April’s Employment Law Digest – It’s all change in April

This month has seen an influx of employment law legislation changes — but what do employers need to be aware of?

Employers should be alert to increased protections and entitlements for their employees as the statutory landscape advances further in early 2024 to accommodate those with family and caring responsibilities.

As well as increases to the National Minimum Wage, changes to holiday accrual for irregular hours workers and changes that allow the payment of rolled up holiday pay, there are a significant number of changes to family friendly rights. From 6 April 2024 the following changes have been implemented:

Paternity Leave

  • Employees now have the option to take leave in two separate one-week blocks.
  • It may be taken at any time within the first year after birth or adoption.
  • The notice requirement of their intention to take leave has been reduced to 28 days’ notice (or seven days of being matched in cases of adoption) for each block of leave.

Carer’s Leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 are now in force and give employees the right to apply for up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave in any 12-month period to care for a dependent with long-term care needs. In summary:

  • There is no minimum service requirement for taking carer’s leave.
  • The leave does not need to be taken in consecutive blocks and can be from half a working day to a maximum of one week.
  • Employees are required to notify their employer if they would like to take carer’s leave (either twice as long as the period of leave requested or three days’ notice, whichever is longer).
  • If employers reasonably consider that it will unduly disrupt their business, they can postpone carer’s leave, but must allow it to be rescheduled within one month of the initial request.
  • No evidence is needed to take carer’s leave and employers cannot require employees to provide it.
  • Employees who take carer’s leave will be protected from detriment or dismissal as a result.

HR Protect clients also have access to our new Carer’s Leave Policy available on the HR Protect portal, which can be accessed here

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Special Protection from Redundancy

Protection in a redundancy situation has also been widened beyond solely women on maternity leave and employees on adoption or shared parental leave. This protection relates to rights to suitable alternative employment in preference to other employees at risk of redundancy. The enhanced protection does not prevent someone in one of these categories being made redundant but where someone in one of the following categories at risk of redundancy, and there is a suitable alternative role available, they should be offered it over someone who is not.

The law now covers both:

  • Pregnant employees, from the date they inform their employer of their pregnancy; and
  • Those returning from long-term family leave (i.e., 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. This means that in most cases this will include a period of time when the employee is back at work following leave.

Employers don’t need to take any immediate action. However, if you are planning any redundancies this change will need to be accounted for to ensure suitable alternative vacancies are identified and offered to all individuals now protected. Failing to offer suitable alternative vacancies for protected individuals could give rise to potential claims for automatically unfair dismissal and/or discrimination.

Flexible Working

New regulations mean all employees have the right to request flexible working regardless of their length of service. Other changes are as follows:

  • 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.

For employers, it may be useful to provide know-how or additional training for managers on how to deal with flexible working requests fairly. See our Flexible working procedure flowchart or Guidance on conducting meeting to discuss flexible working requests, which can be accessed by HR Protect clients.

For further information about becoming an HR Protect client please click here.

If you have any questions about any of the changes mentioned in this article, please do get in touch with Gillian, or another of our Employment solicitors.