New Regulations April 2024

There are 3 main changes coming into effect next month.  In summary, employers will need to be aware of the following :-

Carers Leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations come into force in April 2024.  These new Regulations will provide employees with the right to take up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave in a 12-month period to care for, or arrange care for, dependants with long-term care needs.

  • To be eligible for carer’s leave under the Regulations, the employee will need to have a dependant with a long-term care need, want to be absent from work to provide or arrange care for that dependant, and not have already exceeded his or her statutory entitlement to carer’s leave. ‘Dependant’ and ‘long-term care need’ are defined in S.80J of the Employments Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Carer’s Leave Act 2023. Eligible employees will need to comply with specific notice requirements set out in the Regulations, including providing advance notice to their employer of at least twice the number of days as the period of leave requested or three days in advance, whichever is earlier.
  • The amount of leave is determined by the employee’s normal working pattern. For those with a consistent work schedule, a week’s leave matches the period they are usually required to work. For an employee with a variable work pattern, the calculation is based on an average of the work periods over the preceding 12-month period. If the employee has been employed for less than 52 weeks, the calculation is based on the entire period of the employee’s employment; or, if the employee has been employed for less than one week, a period equal in duration to the period the employee is expected to work in that week. Eligible employees will be able to take the leave in different forms – half-day increments, full days, or as a continuous week – and it does not need to be taken on consecutive days. An employer cannot require an employee to supply evidence in relation to a request for carer’s leave before granting the leave.
  • An employer will be permitted to postpone an employee’s leave if it considers that the business would be unduly disrupted by the employee’s absence. However, to do so, it must notify the employee as soon as reasonably practicable and not later than the earlier of seven days after the employee’s notice was given to the employer, or before the earliest day or part day requested in the employee’s notice. The employer will also need to consult with the employee and reschedule the leave to commence no later than one month after the earliest day or part day of the employee’s request. During carer’s leave, the employee will retain the benefit of his or her terms and conditions of employment, except for remuneration. The employee will also be bound by any obligations arising under those terms and conditions, with certain exceptions. After taking carer’s leave, the employee will be entitled to return to the job in which he or she was employed before the absence, with the same seniority, pension rights, and not less favourable terms and conditions.
  • The employee will be protected from being subjected to detriment or dismissal on the grounds of taking, seeking to take, or because the employer believed that the employee was likely to take, carer’s leave. Where an employee has a contractual right to carer’s leave in addition to the statutory right, he or she will not be permitted to exercise both separately. Instead, the employee may take advantage of whichever right is more favourable in any particular respect.

Flexible Working Changes

Flexible working: Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023

  • From 6 April 2024 the right to request flexible working will become a “day one” right and so removing the current requirement for employees to have at least 26 weeks service to make a flexible working request. Employees will no longer have to explain what effect their requested change may have on the employer and how any such effect might be dealt with.
  • They 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).
  • The measures will be supported by an updated ACAS statutory Code of Practice which will come into effect in April 2024. This makes a number of changes to the existing Code in relation to the making of, and meetings to discuss, flexible working requests.
  • Note that this is still a right to request flexible working and not a “right to have” flexible working so employers can still turn down requests they can’t accommodate.

Employers are now required to engage in a consultative process if they are contemplating rejecting a flexible working request. This shift underscores the significance of open communication between employers and employees. Instead of outright rejection, employers should consider discussing alternatives and mutually beneficial solutions that accommodate both business needs and employee preferences.

Redundancy Protection for those on maternity / adoption or shared parental leave

From the 6th April 2024, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will come into force.  This is being introduced to give greater protection to pregnant women and those on maternity and some other types of family leave.  Evidence has shown that a large percentage of women who are pregnant or on maternity leave still suffer from various forms of discrimination and are at higher risk of redundancy.

Currently there is protection for employees. If a genuine redundancy situation arises then if there is suitable alternative employment available that job must be offered to the woman on maternity leave.  The new legislation effectively extends the protection (known as the “protected period”) when an expected mother tells their employer about their pregnancy up until 18 months after the end of the birth.  There are similar if slightly different protections in place for adoption leave and SPL.  

The new rules do not of course mean that a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave is entirely protected from a redundancy situation if a genuine redundancy situation arises, but simply extends the preferential treatment particularly in relation to suitable alternative vacancies.

Changes to Paternity Leave

Finally, just a reminder that where the expected week of the childbirth falls on or after the 6th April 2024, paternity leave will now be available to be taken in two blocks of one week and extended to be available up to 52 weeks after the birth or adoption.