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Recent changes to employment law and what they mean for employees and employers

View profile for Joanne Ribchester
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Recent changes to employment law and what they mean for employees and employers

As we are heading through spring, the season brings with it updates to employment law which are due to take effect from April 2024 and beyond.

Minimum wage increases

The annual minimum wage increase took effect from 01 April 2024. This sees the hourly pay for workers aged 21 and over (which was previously age 23 and over) increasing from £10.42 per hour to £11.44 per hour. The minimum wage for 18 to 20 year olds increases from £7.49 per hour to £8.60 per hour. The wage for 16 to 17 year olds has increased from £5.28 per hour to £6.40 per hour, and the apprenticeship rate has increased from £5.28 per hour to £6.40 per hour.

Increases to statutory payments

Statutory payments increased on 06 April 2024, with statutory sick pay increasing from £109.40 per week to £116.75 per week.

Also, statutory maternity pay (after the first six weeks), statutory adoption pay (after the first six weeks), statutory paternity pay, statutory shared parental pay and statutory parental bereavement pay all increased from £172.48 per week to £184.03 per week or 90% of the average weekly wage, whichever is lower. 

Changes to paternity leave came into force from 06 April 2024 allowing leave to be taken within 52 weeks of the child’s birth or placement, with the option of the two weeks leave being taken as one block of two weeks, or in two separate blocks of one week with the notice period required adjusted to four weeks.

Flexible working 

Employees no longer have to wait 26 weeks before they are eligible to make a flexible working request. This is now a “day one” right due to the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 SI 2023/1328 coming into force. Alongside this, changes have also been made to the procedure that employers must follow when responding to a flexible working request. This allows an employee to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, allows the employer two months to respond rather than the previous three months, and provides that the employer is required to consult with the employee before a request is rejected. The employee also no longer has to clarify the effect they feel that agreeing to the request would have on the business.

Read more about changes to flexible working changes. 

Carer's leave

A new provision for carer’s leave came into force from 06 April 2024 via the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 SI 2024/251 and is another “day one” right. This allows an employee with a dependant who requires long-term care the opportunity to take one week’s unpaid leave within each 12-month period to provide, or arrange care for their dependant, who does not have to be a family member and can be anyone who reasonably relies on that person for care. The carer’s leave can be taken as a block, individual days, or half days. An employer cannot deny the request but does have the option to postpone the carer’s leave to avoid the business being seriously disrupted. The request does not have to be placed in writing, but notice must be provided that is equal to twice the amount of time being requested, or a minimum of three full days.

Read more about the new carer's leave provision. 

Annual leave

There are new rules in relation to annual leave for workers of irregular hours and part-year workers from 01 April 2024 with the Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 SI 2023/1426. Holiday pay will be calculated on their average pay over the last 52 weeks and include regular and consistent payments such as bonuses and commission. The practice of “rolled up” holiday pay will be allowable again for irregular and part-year workers.

Redundancy protection

Additional legislation came into force from 06 April 2024, which provides additional redundancy protection to employees on maternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave with the Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 SI 2024/264. The regulation extends the protected period for employees on the relevant family leave to up to 18 months following the birth, or placement, of the child. This means that if a redundancy process was to commence, employees still within their protected period should be offered suitable alternative vacancies, if there are any, as a priority. The protection also extends to employees where the pregnancy has concluded but the employee is not eligible for maternity leave.

Read more about changes to redundancy protections

Tribunal compensation values

Tribunal compensation values have also increased from 06 April 2024. The cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal has increased from £105,707 to £115,115, and the amount of weekly pay used to calculate the award for unfair dismissal and redundancy pay has increased from £643 to £700. The “Vento Bands” used to calculate compensation for injury feelings has also increased with the lower band now valued at £1,200 to £11,700, middle band £11,700 to £35,200 and the upper band £35,200 to £58,700.

Changes to come later in the year

In addition to the April changes, there are further changes to employment law due to commence later in the year.

Right to request stable working patterns

From the 18 September 2024, employees, and workers, including those on zero hours contracts will have the right to request a more stable working pattern thanks to The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act. The Act is intended to address some of the imbalances in power between certain workers and employers, and to create a happier workforce leading to more productivity. If a worker/employee has uncertainty in their number of hours, times of work, or on a fixed term contract of less than 12 months the worker can make a request in writing for a more stable working pattern to the employer. The employer must accept the request unless there is a genuine business reason as to why they cannot.

Duty to prevent sexual harassment

From 26 October 2024, The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 comes into force which requires employers to be more proactive, with a positive duty to prevent sexual harassment of employees within the workplace. A failure to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment could result in compensation being uplifted by an additional 25%.

Neonatal care leave

It is expected that from April 2025 parents will be entitled to neonatal care leave when the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 comes into force. This will be a right for parents who have been with their employer for 26 weeks, and whose child requires neonatal care for seven days or more, commencing up to the age of 28 days. Parents will be entitled to up to 12 weeks statutory neonatal care pay which is paid in addition to statutory maternity, paternity or shared parental leave.

Employment law advice

It is important that employees are aware of some of these changes to ensure that they are not deprived of their rights, and it is equally important that employers are not only aware of these changes but also update their own employee policies accordingly to reflect the relevant changes.

If you are an employee looking for assistance due to your employer not allowing you to assert your rights, or an employer looking for assistance on ensuring that your policies and procedures reflect the changes then please contact our employment law team who will be happy to offer assistance. Call us on 0161 696 6170.