New employment rights confirmed for April 2024
15 December 2023
The Government has recently issued several new sets of regulations, bringing into force some of the new rights introduced as a result of Private Members’ Bills that were granted Royal Assent earlier this year. It is now confirmed that the following changes will take effect on 6 April 2024.
The draft Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 have been laid before Parliament and, subject to parliamentary approval, will come into force on 6 April 2024.
These regulations set out the detail of the new right for carers to take up to a week’s unpaid leave as introduced by the Carer’s Leave Act 2023, which received Royal Assent on 23 May 2023.
Eligible carers will be able to give notice to their employer to take a period of leave on or after 6 April 2024. Key requirements are as follows.
- The employee must have a dependant with a ‘long-term care need’. This is defined as being someone with an illness or injury (physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months, someone with a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, or someone who requires care for a reason connected with their old age. A dependant is a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee, or someone who lives in the same household as the employee and reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care.
- A maximum of one week’s unpaid leave can be taken in a rolling period of 12 months. The leave can be taken in either single or half days, or a block of up to one week and can be for the purpose of either providing the care or to arrange care.
- A minimum of three days’ notice must be given to the employer, or twice as many days as the period of leave required, whichever is the greater. So, for a full week’s leave, a minimum of two weeks’ notice will be required.
- Notice of the leave does not need to be provided in writing, and the employer cannot require evidence in relation to the request before granting the leave.
- Employers cannot decline a request, but can postpone the leave if all of the following circumstances apply:
- If the employer reasonably considers that the operation of the business would be ‘unduly disrupted’.
- The employer allows a period of carer’s leave to be taken by the employee of the same duration, within a month of the initial request.
- The employer gives the employee written notice within seven days of the request, providing the reason for the postponement and confirming the agreed dates for the leave.
- Employees will remain entitled to the benefit of all their terms and conditions of employment during a period of carer’s leave, other than remuneration. They will be protected from suffering any detriment, or from being dismissed, on the grounds that they take, or seek to take, carer’s leave.
Note that this right is a ‘day one’ right, meaning that there is no minimum period of service required before an employee is entitled to take the leave.
The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 will also come into force on 6 April 2024. These regulations will remove the existing 26-week minimum period of service for employees to make a request for flexible working, meaning that it will become a ‘day one’ right with effect from 6 April 2024.
Changes to the current statutory right to request flexible working, resulting from the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, are also expected to take effect from 6 April 2024.
- Employees will be able to make two flexible working requests (rather than just one as at present) in any 12-month period. Only one request can be in progress at any time.
- Employers will be required to ‘consult’ with employees before rejecting any request, although the Act does not include any details of what this consultation process should involve.
- Employees will no longer be required, as at present, to identify the effects of the proposed change and suggest how the employer might deal with them.
- Employers will be required to respond to a request within two months rather than three months as currently applies, subject to an agreed extension.
A new Acas Code of Practice on handling flexible working requests is also due to be approved shortly. A draft version of the Code was the subject of a consultation earlier this year.
Draft regulations bringing into effect the extension to the existing period of redundancy protection applying to employees during family-related leave have also been laid before Parliament. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 will take effect from 6 April 2024.
Currently, parents taking a period of maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave have the right to be offered any suitable alternative employment during a redundancy situation, in priority to any others at risk of redundancy.
As a result of the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, this protection is extended to apply during pregnancy, and for a period of 18 months after birth or placement for adoption for those taking maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. This means that for an employee taking 12 months’ maternity leave, the protection will continue to apply for six months after their return to work.
Protection will cover a period of pregnancy, if the employer is informed of the pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024. It starts when the employee informs their employer about the pregnancy.
The protection will apply to maternity and adoption leave ending on or after 6 April 2024, and to shared parental leave starting on or after 6 April 2024. Note that for protection to apply after shared parental leave, there is a minimum threshold of six weeks’ continuous leave.
Employers will need to review their current policies and procedures in advance of April 2024 to ensure that they take account of these changes and take steps to ensure that managers are confident about how the extended rights will operate in practice.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2023.