Key changes to employment law coming into effect this April 2024

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With numerous changes to employment law coming into effect from 6 April 2024, employees and employers should remain current and prepared for the latest legal developments.

Our summary below highlights key changes that will be made to the following:

National minimum wage and national living wage

From 1 April 2024, the National Living Wage will increase to £11.44 an hour (from £10.42), and this will be adjusted to include those aged 21 and over.

The National Minimum Wage from 1 April will increase to:

  • £8.60 an hour (from £7.49) for workers aged 18-20;
  • £6.40 an hour (from £5.28) for workers under the age of 18; and
  • £6.40 an hour (from £5.28) for apprentices.

Employers should ensure they meet the new rates applicable. Where necessary, employers should increase employee remuneration for the first pay period after 6 April. Failure to meet the requirements may lead to staff raising grievances and/or bringing claims and/or HMRC taking enforcement action. For more complex arrangements, such as where accommodation is provided, we recommend employers take advice to ensure that they are meeting the requirements.

Flexible working

From 6 April, the right to make a flexible working application will become a day-one right for all employees. The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 will remove the current requirement for an employee to be continuously employed for at least 26 weeks to make an application.

Under the new legislation, employees can make two applications per year and will not have to explain the effect this change in work might have on their employer. Employers will have two months (previously three) to consult and respond to the flexible working requests.

Employers should observe the guidance on handling flexible working requests (in conjunction with the new regulations) which has been published by ACAS in their new Code of Practice which can be found at:

Carer’s leave

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will come into force on 6 April. This gives employees the right to take one week of unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a ‘dependant’ who has: 

  • -      a physical or mental illness that means they’re expected to need care for more than  three months;
  • -     a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010; or
  • -      requires care because of their old age.

The dependant does not have to be a family member, it can be anyone who relies on the employee for care. This is another day-one right. Employees will be able to take this leave flexibly, but they can only take one week of leave every year.

Employers should ensure that managers and senior leadership understand this new entitlement and communicate the changes to employees. Employers will need to consider how this will affect any contractual and/or carer policies they might have in place, and if necessary, update their policies to cover the new right. We recommend seeking advice as appropriate to ensure that policies and procedures are compliant.

Paternity leave

Changes to The Paternity Leave Amendment Regulations 2024 will come into force on 6 April.

The Regulations (which will apply in cases where the expected week of childbirth falls on or after 6 April), will allow fathers and partners to take their paternity leave in two non-consecutive blocks of one week within the first year after the birth or adoption of their child. This change offers fathers and partners more flexibility to take leave at times which work for their family. Employers should be mindful that this new measure will only require an employee to provide four weeks’ notice prior to each period of leave.

Again, it is important that employers review their policies and processes in line with the new Regulations and update any policies and procedures as appropriate and seek advice as appropriate.

Calculating holiday pay and leave for irregular hours and part year workers

The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulation 2023 contains important changes to how holidays should be calculated and paid for ‘irregular-hours’ and ‘part-year’ workers (both of which have been defined in the Regulation).

From 1 April 2024, employers must adopt the accrual system for calculating leave entitlement when dealing with irregular hours or part year workers. This change means that rather than using the leave year system (i.e. 5.6 weeks leave in a given leave year comprised of 4 weeks’ annual leave and 1.6 weeks’ additional leave), they will instead  get one-twelfth of their leave in each month (i.e. if a worker works for 5 days week, and is entitled to 28 days annual leave a year, after their third month of working, they would be entitled to 7 days’ leave).

Separately, for leave years starting on or after 1 April 2024, employers will also have the option to pay their irregular hours and part-year workers rolled-up holiday pay. This involves spreading a worker’s holiday pay entitlement over the year by adding an amount on top of their basic pay. Employers should notify their worker’s if they are planning to use rolled-up holiday pay, and introducing this change might involve updating contracts and any policies and procedures.

For employers, practical difficulties can arise when workers who have irregular hours do not receive the correct amount of holiday pay under the rolled-up holiday pay system. Workers may receive too much or too little depending on the number of hours worked, and the risk is that this could potentially result in claims being brought for unlawful deduction of wages. To mitigate this risk, employers need to ensure that payslips make clear what element of a worker’s pay is holiday pay and what is basic pay and ensure that they meet any requirements around clearly setting this out in the worker’s pay information.

Redundancy protection

For employees taking maternity, shared parental or adoption leave, The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 from 6 April will bring into force The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulation 2024, which will extend the priority status for these individuals being offered suitable alternative roles by their employer (if available), where they have been selected or put at risk of redundancy. The act most importantly now extends to employees who are pregnant.

The protection will be extended for up to 18 months (after the expected week of childbirth, the child’s date of birth, or adoption), for those who have recently returned to work from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave (after six or more consecutive weeks) and for employees who are pregnant and have notified their employer of their pregnancy.

Employers will need to ensure that managers and senior leadership staff are aware of the changes being made to the priority status for redeployment opportunities in redundancy situations.

Tribunal Compensation Limits and a Week’s Pay

  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from £105,707 to £115,115, or a year’s gross pay, whichever is lower;
  • The limit on one week’s pay when calculating redundancy pay (and the basic award for unfair dismissal) will be raised from £643 to £700;
  • The minimum basic award for some forms of unfair dismissal will rise from £7,836 to £8,533; and
  • The cap on statutory redundancy pay will increase from £19,290 to £21,000. 

Chat to the Author, Nicholas Corderoy

Solicitor, Employment Law, Bishop's Stortford office

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