New legislation coming into force on 06 April 2024

2nd April 2024

1. Flexible Working – New rules for flexible working requests

Current Position

As it stands, in order to make a request for flexible working, employees must have worked continuously for the same employer for the past 26 weeks and only one request can be made per year. Employees are currently also required to write to the employer, providing an explanation as to how the flexible work might affect the business and how this could be dealt with. The employer will then have three months to respond to the employee’s request and if they refuse the flexible working request, there is no requirement to consult with the employee or provide them with a rationale for the rejection.

Position from 06 April 2024

From 06 April 2024, an application for flexible working will become a day one right, meaning that an employee can make a request for flexible working from the first day they start employment and they will be able to make two request a year. The steps for making an application under the new regulations, will be as follows:

1. The employee must write to the employer. However, there is no requirement for the employee to set out a business rationale for the request;

2. The employer must then consider the request and respond to the employee within 2 months;

3. The Employer will be required to agree to the flexible working request unless they have a genuine business reason not to. A decision to reject the request must be for one or more of the following:

(i) The burden of additional costs;
(ii) An inability to recognise work amongst existing staff;
(iii) An inability to recruit additional staff;
(iv) A detrimental impact on quality;
(v) A detrimental impact on performance;
(vi) A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
(vii) Insufficient work available for the periods the employee proposes to work; and
(viii) Planned structural changes to the employer’s business.

4. If they employer agrees with the request for flexible working, they will be required to ensure that that the employee’s contract of employment is updated.

Action points for Employers

One of the biggest changes is that employees will be able to make a flexible working request from day one. Employers will need to be prepared to consider and respond to any flexible working request for any employees from 06 April 2024 and we would recommend that all employers review and update their flexible working policies ahead of that date. If they do not have a flexible working policy, we would recommend putting one in place.

There is no one size fits all approach to flexible working arrangements and employers still have a right to reject flexible working requests that cannot be accommodated but they should consider requests fairly, regardless of personal opinions on flexible working and if employers are unable to accommodate specific flexible working requests proposed by employees, they should seek a compromise with the employee, looking at other potential solutions.


2. Redundancy Protection is set to be extended to give pregnant women and new parents greater protection

As it stands, when employers are contemplating making an employee redundant, they must give first refusal on any suitable alternative vacancy for the following groups of protected individuals:

(a) Employees on maternity leave;
(b) Employees on shared paternity leave; or
(c) Employees on adoption leave.

From 06 April 2024, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will extend the priority status of the above protected groups to employees who are pregnant and who have recently returned from maternity, adoption and shared parental leave for a period of 18 months. The specific enhanced rights for those protected groups are outlined below:

Pregnancy: redundancy protection will apply from when the employee notifies their employer of the pregnancy and will end on the day that the statutory maternity ends.

Maternity Leave: redundancy protection will continue until 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or 18 months from the baby’s date of birth if the employer has been notified before the end of maternity leave.

Adoption Leave: redundancy protection begins at the start of the adoption leave and ends 18 months after the child’s placement for adoption or entry into the UK (if an overseas adoption has taken place).

Shared parental leave: If the employees have taken maternity or adoption leave, those periods apply instead. If the employee takes less than six weeks of shared parental leave, the redundancy protection lasts until the end of the shared parental leave. If more than six continuous weeks of leave is taken then it applies 18 months from the baby’s date of birth.

Action points for Employers

Employers will need to review their policies and procedures to ensure that they have systems in place which can identify any staff who will potentially fall in the above protected category and to identify any vacancies across the business, as appropriate. It is vital that employers demonstrate that they have offered suitable alternative employment to protected employees in order to avoid a potential unfair dismissal / discrimination claims.

Employers should ensure that managers are fully trained on how to identify safeguarded individuals and how to identify suitable vacancies across the business for them in a redundancy situation. Failure to offer a suitable vacancy to a protected individual could lead to a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and/or discrimination, which could incur significant costs for the business.


3. New entitlements for carer’s from 06 April 2024

As it stands, there are no existing provisions which allow carer’s to take leave to care for dependents. Currently a carer would be required to use existing statutory paid holiday if they wanted to take leave to care for dependants.

Under the Carer’s Leave Act 2023, employees who care for dependents will be granted a day one right to take one week of unpaid carer’s leave per year.

A dependent does not need to be a family member, the requirements are that the dependent reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange for care and they must have a long-term care need. Employees are not required to submit evidence to support a request to take carer’s leave and as is the case with all other statutory leave, employees are protected from dismissal as a result of taking or seeking to take carer’s leave.

Employees will be able to request either a consecutive weeks holiday or specific block or half days. Employers may be able to postpone the request, if it disrupts the needs of the business but they will be required to allow the leave to be taken within one month of the original request.

Action points for Employers

Employers should consider introducing a policy to reflect the new statutory right. Managers should also be properly trained on the new rights for carers and the fact that any dismissal in connection with using the leave may potentially lead to unfair dismissal. Managers should also be trained about the potential sensitivity of the subject, given that some employees may not wish to disclose that they are taking time off to care for a dependent and a system should be introduced to track the number of days taken off by an employee for the new leave.

If the employer does need to postpone the carer’s leave for a genuine business reason, they should consult and work with the employee and ensure that any postponements in respect of carer’s leave are provided to the employee in writing, outlining the specific business reasons as to why the request cannot be accommodated at that time.

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