April 2024: Employment law changes taking effect this month

April is always a busy month for employment law changes and this year has proven no different. Several changes have taken effect at the start of this month. These include changes to family-friendly rights, statutory pay rates, tribunal compensation, and the always recurring but welcome increase of the national minimum wage, which we have outlined below.

If you would like to read about the employment law changes that have already taken effect or are still due to take effect this year, then please read our article, Key changes employers need to make for 2024 – are you ready?, among our other articles pertaining to employment law and other areas of law, which can be found here.

1. Carer’s leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 introduced a statutory entitlement for employees to take carer’s leavefrom 6 April 2024. The key changes are summarised below:

• Statutory unpaid leave: Carer’s leave may be taken as full or partial days, consecutively or non-consecutively, as long as the accumulation does not exceed one week, though employers are welcome to offer a longer period on full or partial pay during the leave, should they wish to do so. Statutory carer’s leave is unpaid, though employers could enhance this should they wish to do so. 

• Qualifying period of employment: Employees are entitled to take carer’s leave from the first day of their employment.

• Dependent: Employees may only take leave to care for spouses, civil partners, children or parents; or a person who lives in the same household; or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.

• Long-term need: The dependents cared for by the employee must have a mental or physical illness or injury that requires or is likely to require care for more than three months; is considered to have a disability (as defined by the Equality Act 2010); or old age requiring care.

• Evidence: Employees are not required to provide evidence as part of their request.

• Protection: Employees are protected from detriment or dismissal arising from the requesting or taking of carer’s leave or their employer’s belief that they were going to do the same, and hence, dismissal for those reasons would be considered automatically unfair.

Please read our article, Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 – Employees with caring responsibilities to benefit from statutory protection, if you would like a more detailed explanation of the rules pertaining to carer’s leave.

2. Paternity leave

The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 and Statutory Pay (Amendment) Regulations 2024 introduced changes relating to the paternity leave regime, which took effect from 6 April 2024. Fathers and partners may (i) take leave as two separate non-consecutive blocks of one week, instead of one block of either one or two weeks; and (ii) take leave and pay within the first year of their child’s birth or adoption, instead of within the first eight weeks after the same. The notice required to be given by the father or partner is also shortened in most cases.

3. Extension of redundancy protection period

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 introduced changes, which took effect from 6 April 2024, extending the protection provided to employees in a redundancy situation on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave, which offers suitable alternative vacancies (if available) in preference to other ‘non-protected’ groups of employees, for the additional periods of protection outlined below. The protection has also been extended to apply to pregnancies.

• Pregnancy (followed by maternity leave):Protection applies as soon as the employer is informed of the pregnancy and technically ends when the maternity leave begins.

• Maternity leaveProtection applies at the start of statutory maternity leave and ends 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or actual date of birth if the employer is notified before the end of the maternity leave.

• Pregnancy with baby loss before 24 weeks:Protection applies as soon as the employer is informed of the pregnancy and continues until two weeks following the end of the pregnancy.

• Adoption leave: Protection applies at the start of the statutory adoption leave and ends 18 months after the child is placed with the employee for adoption. If the child is from overseas, then the period ends after the child enters Great Britain.

• Shared parental leave (SPL): Protection applies as SPL begins and ends 18 months after the child was born or placed with the employee for adoption, on the basis that the SPL was taken for at least six or more consecutive weeks. If not, then the protection continues until the end of SPL.

4. Flexible working

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023took effect from 6 April 2024, which made flexible working a ‘day one’ right for employees. The requirements and procedure to be followed are briefly outlined below:

• Qualifying period of service: Employees would not be required to have a qualifying period of service to be eligible for flexible working, removing the previous requirement of having at least 26 weeks’ continuous service before being entitled to make a request.

• Number of requests: Employees would be able to make two requests per year – previously one request per year.

• Explanation: Employees would not be required to explain the effect the request would have on the employer – previously required.

• Rejection: Employers would be required to consult with the employee first before rejecting a request – previously required.

• Response period: Employers would be required to respond to the request within three months – previously two months.

5. Annual leave and holiday pay for irregular hours and part-year workers

The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations amended the law relating to holiday pay and working time, and apply to leave years following 1 April 2024. Please see the key changes below:

• Rolled-up holiday pay: Employers are permitted to pay rolled-up holiday pay for workers with irregular hours and part-year workers. Employers are also permitted to use a 52-week reference period for calculating holiday pay for workers with irregular hours and part-year workers who are on long-term sick leave or family leave.

This means that employers may choose whether to pay i) holiday pay when holiday is taken at the rate of a week’s pay for each week’s holiday or ii) pay rolled-up pay as a 12.07% uplift to the hours worked in a pay period.

• Carrying over holiday: Under the regulations, all workers are entitled to carry over holiday if the worker was unable to take some or all of their holiday due to having taken statutory leave and sick leave, or if the employer failed to recognise their right to or providing a reasonable opportunity to take annual leave or informing them that leave would be lost if not carried over.

6. National minimum wage

The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2024 amended the national minimum wage(NMW) and national living wage (NLW), which took effect from 1 April 2024, as follows:

 Previous rate (per hour) New rate (per hour)
NLW£10.42 (23 and over)£10.18 (21-22) £11.44 (new rate to apply for21 and over)
NMW (18-20)£7.49£8.60 
NMW (under 18)£5.28£6.40 
Apprentice Rate£5.28£6.40 

7. Statutory pay rates

The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2024 increased statutory pay rates, as follows:

  Previous rate (per week) New rate (per week)
Statutory sick pay (with effect from 6 April 2024) £109.40£116.75
Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental, and parental bereavement pay (with effect from 7 April 2024) £172.48£184.03 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly pay, whichever is lower
Maternity allowance (with effect from 8 April 2024)£172.48£184.03 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly pay, whichever is lower 

8. Increase of Tribunal compensation

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2024, which took effect from 6 April 2024, increased Employment Tribunal compensation limits and other statutory payments, including statutory redundancy pay. Some of the key increases are as follows:

 Previous rate New rate
Cap on a statutory week’s pay £643£700
Cap on statutory redundancy pay £19,290£21,000
Maximum basic award for unfair dismissal £19,290£21,000
Maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal£105,707 (or a year’s gross pay, if lower) £115,115 (or a year’s gross pay, if lower)
Additional award for unfair dismissal, if the employer fails to comply with an order to reinstate or reengage the employee £16,718-£33,436£18,200-£36,400

Furthermore, the Seventh Addendum to the Presidential Guidance (originally published on 5 September 2017)was published on 25 March 2024, updating the ‘Vento bands’. It’s important to note that the addendum serves as an update for claims presented after 6 April 2024, and does not replace the previous addendums, which should be used for claims presented before the latest addendum. The updated ‘Vento bands’ are as follows:

Vento bands New rates
Upper band (most serious cases)£35,200-£58,700 (this may be exceeded in exceptional cases) 
Middle band (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band) £11,700-£35,200 
Lower band (less serious cases)£1,200-£11,700 

If you’re an employer looking to ensure your policies and procedures are compliant with the new changes, or you’re an employee that may wish to obtain advice or assistance in relation to a breach of your employment rights relating to the above or in general, then please do not hesitate to contact our specialist employment team: employment@curzongreen.co.uk, for assistance.

All information is true as at the date of preparing this article. Please always consult the latest legislation or government guidance for accurate information.