April 2024: UK Employment Law Changes Take Effect - McDermott Will & Emery

April 2024: UK Employment Law Changes Take Effect


Now that Spring has sprung, early April 2024 sees the introduction of a number of important changes to employment laws in the UK. In summary, these include:

  • Expansion of the existing right to request flexible working
  • New rules for the calculation of holiday and holiday pay entitlement for irregular hour workers and part-year workers
  • A new unpaid leave right for carers
  • Greater flexibility in respect of paternity leave
  • Enhanced redundancy protection for pregnant employees and employees taking certain family leave
  • Increases in minimum wage limits
  • Increases in the value of certain potential tribunal awards and other statutory payment entitlements
  • Increases in the value of potential injury to feeling awards in discrimination cases

Read on for further information on these key changes and some of the important consequences for employers.

In Depth

1. Flexible Working Requests

From 6 April 2024, the right to request flexible working has become a day one right for all employees (previously, an employee needed to have worked for the same employer for at least 26 continuous weeks before gaining this right).

The following additional changes have also taken effect:

  • Employees will be able to make two requests in any 12-month period (up from the one request in any 12-month period previously), though only one such request may be live at any one time.
  • Employers will now be required to respond to a flexible working request within two months (down from the three month period that applied previously).
  • Employees no longer need to explain the impact of their request when applying.
  • Employers are now required to consult with employees before rejecting a request.

It remains the case that an employer may reject a request based on one or more prescribed statutory reasons and those eight potential reasons remain unchanged as follows:

  • the burden of additional costs
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • an inability to recruit additional staff
  • a detrimental impact on quality
  • a detrimental impact on performance
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • insufficient work available for the periods the employee proposes to work
  • planned structural changes to the employer’s business

Employers considering refusing a request based on any of these reasons should give careful consideration to the evidential basis underlying their assessment.

Employers should also remain mindful of their separate obligations under the Equality Act 2010. Where protected characteristics are potentially engaged, employers will need to be satisfied that refusing a request is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (such that any indirect discrimination is objectively justified). In respect of employees who are disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, employers will need to consider whether the requested change might constitute a reasonable adjustment.

The updated flexible working regime is supported by a new statutory Acas Code of Practice on requests for flexible working (accessible here) (the Code). The Code provides guidance for employers and employees on their legal rights, responsibilities and good practice in making and handling statutory requests for flexible working. A failure to follow the Code will not, in itself, make an employer liable to legal proceedings. However, employment tribunals will be permitted to take the Code into account when considering relevant cases.

In addition to updating existing flexible working policies and procedures, employers may wish to provide additional training to managers to ensure awareness of the expanded rights and to ensure that any requests are recognised and dealt with in a timely and fair manner.

2. Holiday Pay for ‘Irregular Hours Workers’ and ‘Part-Year Workers’: Leave Years Beginning on or After 1 April 2024

For leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, holiday entitlement for irregular hour workers and part-year workers can now, if an employer wishes, be calculated and paid at an accrual rate of 12.07% (so-called “rolled-up holiday pay”).

The changes are aimed at addressing anomalies in the previous rules as they applied to such workers. A Supreme Court decision in 2022 found that it was not permissible for the leave entitlement for such workers to be pro-rated downwards to reflect hours actually worked. This created the possibility of irregular hours and part-year workers potentially receiving a greater holiday and holiday pay entitlement than those workers with regular hours and/or who worked all year round.

The new regime allows employers to include an additional amount with every pay slip to cover a worker’s holiday entitlement and pay, and in essence pay out for that holiday as it accrues.

The payment of such rolled up holiday pay for holiday years beginning on or after 1 April 2024 is permissible provided that:

  • the particular individual counts as an irregular hours or part-year worker;
  • holiday pay is calculated at 12.07% of all pay for work done (this being the percentage arrived at by taking the 5.6 weeks of statutory holiday entitlement and dividing that by the remaining 46.4 working weeks in a year);
  • the extra 12.07% is paid at the same time as pay for the work done; and
  • the holiday pay is itemised separately on the payslip.

For this purpose:

  •  an ‘irregular hours worker’ is a worker who works a ‘wholly or mostly variable’ number of paid hours in each pay period during the term of their contract; and
  • a ‘part-year worker’ is a worker who is required to only work part of the year and there are periods without that year of at least a week which they are not required to work and for which they are not paid.

3. New Statutory Right to Carer’s Leave

From 6 April 2024, employees have a statutory right to one week’s unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.

This includes:

  • a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee;
  • any person who lives in the same household as the employee (otherwise than by reason of being the employee’s boarder, employee, lodger or tenant); or
  • any person who reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care.

A long-term care need for this purpose means:

  • an illness or injury (whether physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months;
  • a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010; or
  • care for a reason connected with old age.

The leave can be taken in either individual days or half days, in up to a single block of one week.

Employees will not be required to provided evidence in relation to a request for any such leave. They will, however, need to give notice, albeit this does not need to be in writing. The amount of notice required will be the longer of either (i) twice the length of time being requested or (ii) three days.

Employers will not be permitted to refuse a carer’s leave request but can, in principle, ask the employee to take it at a different time. They can only do this, however, if the employee’s absence at the requested time would cause serious disruption to the organisation.

Employees will have the right to claim to an employment tribunal if their employer unreasonably postpones a period of carer’s leave or prevents or attempts to prevent them from taking carer’s leave.

In the usual way, employees will also be protected from detriment and dismissal if the reason is because they took or sought to take carer’s leave.

In addition to introducing a new policy and procedure, it will be important for employers to provide appropriate training to managers to ensure awareness of this new right.

4. Greater Flexibility for Eligible Employees in Respect of Paternity Leave

For children whose expected week of childbirth (EWC) is after 6 April 2024 and children whose expected date of placement for adoption is on or after 6 April 2024, an employee may choose to take:

  • A single period of leave of either one week or two weeks; or
  • Two non-consecutive periods of leave of a week each.

Generally, this must be taken within 52 weeks of a child’s birth or placement for adoption.

For children with an EWC or expected date of placement prior to 6 April 2024, the statutory entitlement remains a single block of either one or two weeks leave that must be taken within the first eight weeks after the adoption or birth.

5. Enhanced Redundancy Protection for Pregnant Employees and Employees Taking Certain Family Leave

It has long been the case that women on maternity leave and employees on adoption or shared parental leave have, in any redundancy situation arising, benefited from the right to be offered an available suitable alternative vacancy in priority to other employees.

From 6 April 2024, the period during which this enhanced protection applies has been extended as follows:

  • For pregnant employees – enhanced redundancy protection will start when an employee tells their employer about their pregnancy. If the employee is entitled to statutory maternity leave, the protected period of pregnancy will end on the day the statutory maternity leave starts. If the pregnancy ends and they are not entitled to statutory maternity leave, the protected period ends two weeks after the end of pregnancy.
  • For employees on maternity leave – the additional protected period will end 18 months after the EWC, unless the employee has informed the employer of the date of their child’s birth, in which case the additional protected period will end 18 months after that date.
  • For employees on adoption leave – the additional protected period will end 18 months after the child’s placement or the date they enter Great Britain (in the case of overseas adoptions).
  • For employees on shared parental leave – for those taking six or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave but who have not taken maternity or adoption leave, the additional protected period will end 18 months after the date of the child’s birth or placement (or date they enter Great Britain).

6. Increases in the Amount of Certain Potential Tribunal Awards and Other Statutory Payment Entitlements

Various changes relating to the calculation of statutory redundancy payments and unfair dismissal award payments, as set out in the table below, took effect on 6 April 2024, and will apply to dismissals where the effective date of termination (EDT) occurs on or after that date.

It is important for employers to note:

  • If an employee was given notice prior to 6 April 2024, but the notice period expires on or after 6 April 2024, the new limits will apply.
  • If an employee’s employment was terminated by means of a payment in lieu of notice, the EDT will be the actual date the dismissal took effect, plus the amount of statutory notice applicable to the employee, e.g., one week per year of employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. If the statutory notice would take the EDT to or beyond 6 April 2024, the new limits are applicable.

Changes have also taken effect in early April 2024 in relation to the national minimum wage / national living, statutory sick pay and various family-related leave pay rates as also set out in the tables below.

Employment Tribunal Awards: Changes from 6 April 2024

Employment Tribunal Award / Statutory Rate  Old Rate New Rate
One week’s pay for calculating redundancy and the unfair dismissal basic award £643 £700
Maximum basic award for unfair dismissal and maximum statutory redundancy pay  £19,290 £21,000
Maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal £105,707 £115,115
Maximum total award for unfair dismissal i.e., maximum unfair dismissal compensatory award plus maximum basic award £124,997 £136,115
Minimum basic award for certain unfair dismissals (including dismissals relating to health and safety and pension scheme trustee duties) £7,386 £8,533
Statutory sick pay per week £109.40 £116.75

National Minimum Wage & National Living Wage: Changes from 1 April 2024

23 and over 21 to 22 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
Old Rate £10.42 £10.18 £7.49 £5.28 £5.28
21 and over 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
New Rate £11.44 £8.60 £6.40 £6.40

Family-Related Leave Rights Pay Rates: Changes from 7 April 2024

Old Rate New Rate
Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement pay £172.48 per week £184.03 per week

7. Injury to Feeling Awards in Discrimination Cases

The “Vento Bands” are the levels of compensation that a successful claimant can be awarded for injury to feelings and psychiatric injury in discrimination, harassment and victimisation cases in employment tribunals.

Although there is theoretically no limit on the compensation that may be awarded in discrimination and harassment cases, employment tribunals must follow official guidelines when making awards for injury to feelings. These guidelines set out three bands of compensation, depending on the seriousness of the discrimination and its effect on the victim.

The new bands, in respect of claims presented on or after 6 April 2024, are as follows:

Band Previous Award Range New Award Range
Lowest band (less serious cases) £1,100 – £11,200 £1,200 to £11,700
Middle band (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band) £11,200 – £33,700 £11,700 to £35,200
Highest band (the most serious cases) £33,700 – £56,200 £35,200 to £58,700