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Key employment law changes in place from 6 April 2024

on Friday, 12 April 2024.

A number of new and enhanced employment law rights took effect on 6 April 2024. The changes include the new right to unpaid carer's leave, enhanced redundancy protection for family leave returners, and changes to the flexible working regime.

Carer's leave

The new right to take statutory unpaid carer's leave applies to employees who have caring responsibilities for dependants with a long-term care need. There is now a right for employees with such responsibilities to take up to one week's unpaid leave per 12 month rolling period.

The right to take carer's leave is a 'day one' right, meaning that employees do not need to accrue minimum service before exercising the right. The right can be exercised continuously or discontinuously, but cannot be taken in increments shorter than one half day at a time. There are also notice requirements to take the leave and a limited right for employers to postpone the leave for up to one month if the proposed dates would be unreasonably disruptive.

Paternity leave

The statutory paternity leave framework has been updated so that it will become easier and more flexible for fathers and partners to take paternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The changes apply to births and adoptions on or after 6 April 2024.

Fathers and partners will now be able to choose to take their leave and pay as two non-consecutive blocks of one week, rather than in one block of either one or two weeks. It will also be possible to take the leave and pay at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of the child, (rather than only within the first eight weeks after the birth or adoption).

The way notice is given of the entitlement to leave and the intention to take each period of leave, has also changed. In order to be eligible to take paternity leave, employees will still need to have 26 weeks' service at the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. They will then need to give at least 28 days' notice of each period of leave they wish to take in most cases. The notice requirement for domestic adoption cases will remain seven days of receipt of the notice of adoption.  

Flexible working

The law has been updated to make it easier for employees to make a request for flexible working.

From 6 April, employees are no longer required to have 26 weeks' service before qualifying for the right to make a flexible work request. This means that the right to request flexible working is now a 'day one' right.

Additionally, employees will be also entitled to make two statutory flexible working requests every 12 months. The time limit for employers to respond to statutory flexible working requests has been reduced, from three to two months. This adds to the time pressure to organise the flexible work request procedure, especially as a rejection may lead to a second request in the same year. Employers will need to consult with employees before refusing a request.

Enhanced redundancy protection

Existing enhanced redundancy protection for women on maternity leave has been extended. The protected period refers to the period during which affected staff are entitled to be offered suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation. The protected period now starts from the date the employee notifies the employer of their pregnancy and lasts until the day statutory maternity leave starts, or two weeks after the end of the pregnancy if the pregnancy ends sooner than this.

A new 'additional protected period' has also been introduced. This additional period of protection applies to staff who have taken maternity leave, adoption leave, or at least six weeks of shared parental leave. Staff in this position will benefit from the same enhanced redundancy protection for 18 months following the child's expected week of childbirth, birth or adoption.

Next steps

Employers should ensure their policies are updated where required, in order to take account of these important changes. Please do contact your usual VWV contact if you require assistance with updating your organisation's policies.

For more information and advice, please contact Jessica Scott-Dye in our Employment team on 0117 314 5652, or complete the form below.

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