All you need to know about the changes in employment law from 6 April 2024

There are a number of employment law changes coming into effect on 6 April 2024 that will impact SMEs the most. These modifications to employment law will profoundly influence the daily functions of businessesThere are a number of employment law changes coming into effect on 6 April 2024 that will impact SMEs the most. These modifications to employment law will profoundly influence the daily functions of businesses, especially during a period when SMEs face substantial economic challenges. It is essential for managers to revise their policies, engage with employees, and adapt their procedures in alignment with the updated regulations prior to their implementation. This proactive stance is vital to maintain compliance and mitigate potential claims.

There are also changes happening later in the year that you should also be aware of. Over the course of the year these changes will affect area such as pay and leave, flexible working, sexual harassment and working patterns.

Here are the main points to help you understand and manage the changes to employment law:


Annual leave and pay

The new regulations for determining holiday entitlement and the choice to offer rolled-up holiday pay will take effect for holiday periods beginning on 1 April 2024. These modifications pertain to part-year employees (those who have at least one week annually without work or pay) and workers with fluctuating hours (whose paid working hours vary significantly in each pay cycle).

Holiday entitlement for these workers will accrue at the rate of 12.07 percent of the hours worked during that pay period. Employers will have the choice to:

  • pay them holiday pay when they take their holiday; or
  • pay them rolled-up holiday pay. This is when an additional supplement is added to the worker’s pay that represents the holiday pay they have earned in that pay period.

These new changes can be applied from holiday years starting on or after 1 April 2024.


Paternity leave 

These changes came into effect from the 8th March and will apply to employees where the expected week of childbirth (EWC) or placement for adoption begins on or after 6 April 2024. The updated regulations stipulate that:

  • employees have the option to take either a single one-week or two-week block of leave, or two separate one-week periods of leave;
  • leave can be availed within 52 weeks following childbirth; and
  • employees still must provide a minimum of 15 weeks’ notice prior to the expected week of childbirth (or as soon as feasible if not reasonably practical). However, they are not required to finalise the specific dates until at least 28 days before the commencement of the leave period.

Carers’ leave

Starting from 6 April, employees will be entitled to take up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave annually from their first day of employment to care for a dependent with long-term care needs. This leave can be taken in full or half-day increments, with a notice requirement of either three days or double the requested leave duration, whichever is greater.

While employers cannot deny this leave, they may postpone it if there’s a reasonable belief that allowing the leave would significantly disrupt business operations. However, the postponed leave must be rescheduled within one month of the originally requested date. Employers must provide a counter notice explaining the reason for the delay and the mutually agreed upon new date for taking the leave. Employers cannot also request proof of why the leave is required.


Redundancy and the extension of protection for those on family leave

Under current safeguards, employees on maternity leave, adoption leave, and shared parental leave are prioritized for suitable alternative positions when their current role faces redundancy. These protections will be expanded as follows:

  • Pregnant employees will enjoy this safeguard from the moment they inform their employer about their pregnancy until 18 months post-birth.
  • Employees who have availed adoption leave will benefit from protection for 18 months following the placement date.
  • Workers taking less than six weeks of shared parental leave will be covered during their leave duration.

Conversely, those taking more than six consecutive weeks of shared parental leave will be safeguarded for 18 months after the child’s birth.


Flexible working 

All employees will have the right to request flexible working from their first day of employment.

Acas has issued an updated statutory code on flexible working requests that includes these modifications. This code will be effective from 6 April and, while not legally binding, tribunals will consider it when adjudicating cases. Hence, employers are advised to integrate these changes into their flexible working policies.

Under the updated regulations, employers must engage in discussions with employees and consider alternative solutions before declining a flexible working request. Decisions on applications must now be made within two months, reducing the previous timeframe of three months, which includes any appeals.

Additionally, employees will be entitled to submit two flexible working requests within a 12-month period, rather than the previous allowance of one.


There are also further employment law changes later in 2024:


Distribution of tips 

Starting from 1 July, employees will be granted full entitlement to their tips without any deductions by their employer, except for legally mandated reductions like taxes. Employers are obligated to distribute tips to workers by the end of the subsequent month following their receipt. Additionally, employers must establish a written policy detailing the distribution of tips and retain records of tip allocation for a minimum of three years, accessible to workers upon request. The government has recently sought feedback on a forthcoming statutory code of practice that employers will need to consider in adhering to the updated regulations.


Anticipated working patterns

Effective from October 2024, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 will grant workers a legal entitlement to request a more consistent working schedule when their current pattern is erratic. This provision will also encompass individuals on fixed-term contracts lasting less than 12 months. Analogous to flexible working requests, employers will retain the discretion to decline such requests based on various legitimate reasons.


Worker protection around sexual harassment 

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023, effective from October 2024, introduces a new obligation for employers to implement reasonable measures to deter sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are already held accountable for workplace harassment unless they can demonstrate that they have taken every reasonable precaution to prevent such occurrences. This entails establishing appropriate policies, providing comprehensive training on these policies, and handling incidents in a suitable manner. It’s crucial for businesses to adhere to these guidelines because, if found non-compliant, tribunals may augment compensation awards by up to 25 per cent.