Changes to employment law that all employers need to know.
The new year has brought with it a flurry of new employment law regulations which are due to come into effect from April 2024. It’s a little like waiting for a bus…they all come at once.
Paternity Leave changes
First up are changes to the Paternity Leave Regulations.
Currently, employees who are eligible to take paternity leave can only take either one or two weeks’ consecutive paid leave on the birth or adoption of a child and it must be taken within 8 weeks of the birth of the child or the date of placement for adoption. The parent must also give their employer notice of their intention to take paternity leave by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or, where adopting, within 7 days of being notified of being matched with a child.
These requirements are set to change under the Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 which come into force on 8 March 2024. Under these new regulations employees will be able to:
- Take their two-week paternity leave entitlement in two separate blocks of one week, instead of having to choose between taking one week or two consecutive weeks.
- Take their paternity leave within 52 weeks of the birth or placement for adoption, rather than having to take it within 8 weeks; and
- Give only 28 days’ notice of their intention to take paternity leave, as opposed to the much longer notice period of 15 weeks.
The new changes will apply to employees whose child is expected to be born or placed for adoption with them on or after 6 April 2024.
Right to Carer’s Leave
From 6 April 2024, employees will have the right to take one week’s unpaid leave to care for a dependant.
Under the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024, employees will have a “day one” right to take a maximum of one week’s unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.
The definition of a dependant includes a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, someone who lives in the same household as the employee and also, a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care. It is essentially the same definition as is used for the right to time off for dependants.
The leave does not have to be taken in one block – it can be taken as five separate working days across the year.
There are notice requirements; the employee must give twice as much notice to their employer as the amount of leave they wish to take, or three days, whichever is the longest. Once a request is received, the employer cannot decline it altogether, but it can postpone the leave by up to a month if it reasonably considers that the requested leave would unduly disrupt the business. Any postponement must be done by way of counter notice, and the employer must provide the reason for the postponement as well as the revised dates that leave can be taken on.
As with many other statutory rights, an employee whose request to take carer’s leave is refused or unreasonably postponed will be able to pursue a tribunal claim against their employer. In addition, employees will be able to bring a tribunal claim if they are subjected to any detriment as a result of exercising the right and will have an automatic claim for unfair dismissal if they are dismissed because they have taken such leave.
Right to request flexible working from “day one” of employment
Another change due to come into force on 6 April 2024 is in relation to the right to request flexible working.
Currently, an employee needs to have 26 weeks of continuous service to be able to make a request for flexible working. However, from 6 April 2024, employees will have the right to make a flexible working request from “day one” of their employment.
It is also anticipated that other changes to the statutory flexible working framework will come into force at the same time. These include:
- The right for employees to make up to 2 flexible working requests in any 12-month period. Presently employees can only make one request per 12-month period.
- The reduction of the time limit for employers to respond to flexible working requests from 3 months to 2.
Action to Take
With a couple of months to go before the changes come into force, now is the time to review and update your paternity leave and flexible working policies to ensure that they reflect the new law. Also, you may want to consider implementing a carer’s leave policy to inform your employees of the new right and the process for requesting this leave.
If you would like assistance with updating or creating any of these policies, please get in touch with a member of the Real Employment Law team.