Important changes in employment law from 6 April 2024

There are changes in employment law coming into force on 6 April 2024. We outline what changes employers can expect to see and what they should prepare for.

5 April 2024

Family with a baby

There are several important changes coming into force from 6 April 2024, with a focus on family friendly rights for employees. To ensure that you are up-to-date and prepared for these changes, we have summarised the key changes below.

Extended redundancy protection

It has long been established that those on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave have added protection from redundancy, as they have the right to be offered any suitable alternative role over other employees in a redundancy situation.

However, from 6 April 2024, this protection is being extended to:

  • Pregnant employees: during a “protected period” which will begin with the date the employee informs their employer of their pregnancy and lasts for the full pregnancy.
  • Those returning from maternity leave: for a period of 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth (EWC) (or the date of the child’s birth where the employee has informed the employer in writing during maternity leave).
  • Those returning from adoption leave: for a period of 18 months from the date of placement.
  • Those who have returned from shared parental leave: for a period of 18 months from birth, or placement for adoption, provided that the employee has taken at least six continuous weeks’ shared parental leave. If less than six weeks of leave has been taken, the protection will not be extended and will remain only during the period of shared parental leave.
  • An employee who has suffered a miscarriage: for a two-week period following their miscarriage, unless the miscarriage is after 24 weeks in which case this will be classed as a still birth and the employee will be entitled to maternity leave, and as such the additional protection during that period.
  • These new rules and protections will apply where an employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy or if a period of maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave ends on or after 6 April 2024.

Flexible working requests – a “Day 1” right

From 6 April 2024, employees will have the right to make a request for flexible working from the outset of their employment, instead of having to first be employed for a period of 26 weeks.

Further to this, employees will now be able to make two (previously one) flexible working requests in any 12-month period. Employers will now also have to respond to a flexible working request within two (reduced from three) months of receipt and are not able to refuse the request unless they have consulted with the employee first. 

Finally, an employee will not be required to include in their application what day-to-day impact they think agreeing to the request may have and how this could be dealt with.

Changes to paternity leave

Employees will also have new rights where the EWC or adoption placement is on or after 6 April 2024.

These new rights are as follows:

  • Employees will be able to take the two-week paternity leave entitlement as two separate blocks of one-week duration.

  • Employees can use their paternity leave entitlement in anytime in the 52 weeks after birth (rather than the previous 56 days following birth).

  • Employees will only need to give 28 days’ notice of their intention to take paternity leave (reduced from 15 weeks).

Unpaid carer’s leave

Introduced by the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 (brought into force on 4 December 2023, but this new right takes effect on 6 April 2024), employees who care for a dependent will now have a right to request up to one week of unpaid leave per year. This is also a right that employees will have from the outset of employment.

Employees can request a whole week’s leave in consecutive, non-consecutive, or half days. They must provide notice to their employer of their intention to take carer’s leave and while an employer cannot refuse carer’s leave, it can be postponed (for no longer than one month) if the business would be unduly disrupted and the employer explains why a postponement of the leave has been necessary.

The employee’s rights (e.g. to holidays) are protected during carer’s leave and an employee cannot be dismissed or subjected to any detriment on grounds of having taken or being likely to take carer’s leave.

How can we help?

As outlined above, there are some significant changes to employment law being brought into force this month, with the remainder of 2024 set to introduce more still. It is therefore crucial to ensure that you understand and are ready for these changes. 

Our team of specialist employment lawyers are able to assist with any queries relating to any of these developments in the law, including providing training and/ or updating and drafting policies. Don’t hesitate to get in contact with our team if you need assistance in these matters.