Recent changes to employment law: stay up-to-date

Posted on April 23, 2024
Posted by Marion Kennedy

Earlier this month, a number of changes to the law came into effect, which will impact the way you deal with your employees. These included changes to flexible working requests, the introduction of carer’s leave, better protection from redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers, parental pay increases and changes to paternity leave rules, and changes to the way holiday leave and pay are calculated for irregular-hours and part-year workers. 

We’ve updated our toolkits, Q&A and documents to reflect these changes, and you should check your internal policies and processes to make sure you are complying with the new legal requirements. 

1. Wage and parental pay increases

From 1 April 2024, the National Living Wage has increased from £10.42 to £11.44, and employees aged over 21 are now eligible for the National Living Wage. The national minimum wage has also increased to £8.60 per hour for 18- to 20-year-olds, and £6.40 per hour for 16- to 17-year-olds and apprentices.

Additionally, from 7 April 2024, the weekly rate for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental leave, and parental bereavement leave has increased to £184.03 or 90% of the employee’s weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Note that for the first six weeks of maternity leave, an employee is entitled to 90% of their average weekly earnings. 

2. Changes to holiday pay and leave for casual and part-year workers

The government has made changes to the way holiday entitlement is calculated for irregular (casual) and part-year workers, and has permitted the use of ‘rolled-up’ holiday pay (previously illegal under EU law). 

New method of calculating holiday entitlement

If you employ irregular hours (casual) and/or part-year workers, for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, you may either:

  1. accrue their holiday entitlement at the rate of 12.07% of their actual hours worked in a pay period (rounded up or down to the nearest hour) on the assumption they are entitled to the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday per year;
  2. accrue their holiday entitlement at the rate of (total holiday entitlement ÷ remaining working weeks in the year) x 100, if they are entitled to more than 5.6 weeks holiday per year; or
  3. for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, pay them ‘rolled-up holiday pay’ in each pay period, instead of giving them paid time off. 

Note these workers won’t be able to earn more than a total of 28 days of annual leave per year, unless specified in their contract.

Rolled-up holiday pay

Rolled-up holiday pay means that you include an additional amount with every payslip to cover your worker’s holiday pay, rather than giving them paid holiday leave. You are allowed to use this method for calculating holiday pay for casual (irregular hours) workers and part-year workers only, for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024.

To calculate a worker’s rolled-up holiday pay, add 12.07% of a worker’s total pay in each pay period (assuming your worker is entitled to the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks annual holiday leave). This additional amount should be paid at the same time the worker is paid for the work done in that pay period.

If you intend to start using rolled-up holiday pay, make sure you check your worker’s contract, in case you need to ask them to agree to a variation of contract. You should also make sure the rolled-up holiday pay is shown as a separate item on each payslip, and make sure your worker is aware that this means they will not be paid when they take holiday time off.

If you employ irregular hours or part-year workers, you may wish to seek legal advice to check you are following the right process going forward. To speak to a specialist lawyer in a few simple steps, you can use our Ask a Lawyer service.

3. Changes to paternity leave now in force

The Statutory Paternity Pay (Amendment) Regulations 2024 came into force on 8 March 2024 and apply to fathers or partners who have children that were born or placed for adoption on or after 6 April 2024. Eligible employees are now able to split their leave into two non-consecutive blocks, are required to give less notice of their leave dates, and may take their leave at any time during the year after their child is born or adopted. However, paternity pay amounts will not change. See our Q&A for more guidance.

4. Carer’s leave now available to employees 

Employees are now entitled to one week’s unpaid leave per year to give or arrange care for someone who (reasonably) relies on them for care. This week of leave is pro-rated according to the hours an employee usually works. For example, if your employee usually works three days a week, they are entitled to three days of carer’s leave. They can take a whole week off, or take individual days or half days throughout the year. 

Employees will need to give three days’ notice of a half day or day off, and/or give a notice period that is at least twice as long as the requested leave. For example, if the request is for three days, they must give at least six days’ notice. You’ll only be able to ask your employee to take their leave at a different time if it would cause serious disruption to your business, and in that case you’ll need to allow them to take their leave within one month of their original requested date. See our Q&A for notice requirements for carer’s leave.

See Staff handbook and policies for a template policy on time off for caring responsibilities, which you can customise for your business.

Agency workers, casual workers and freelancers are not entitled to this type of leave, and any time off in emergency situations will therefore be down to agreement with you and may need to be taken as holiday leave (in the case of agency workers, the arrangements will usually need to be made with their agency). 

Employees who take carer’s leave that they are legally entitled to are protected from unfair dismissal and/or any detriment due to them taking carer’s leave (or as a result of you believing they are likely to take carer’s leave in the future).

5. Flexible working now a ‘day one’ right

Since 6 April 2024, employees are now permitted to request flexible working from day one of their employment, can make two flexible working requests per year, and no longer need to explain the impact of their request on the business. Additionally, employers are required to make a decision within two months (reduced from three months previously) and consult with employees before declining a request. See our recent blog for more guidance.

6. Increased protection from redundancy for pregnant employees and those on parental leave

The following employees must now be offered suitable alternative employment (if it exists) in priority to anyone else who is provisionally selected for redundancy: 

  • Pregnant employees, who are protected for 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth (or the exact date of birth if proper notice is given)
  • Employees on adoption leave, for 18 months from the date of adoption placement
  • Employees on shared parental leave, for 18 months from birth, provided the parent has taken a period of 6 consecutive weeks or more of shared parental leave (and isn’t protected under one of the criteria above)

The protections apply where you are informed of your employee’s pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024, and to any maternity, adoption or shared parental leave ending on or after 6 April 2024.

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