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Employment Law: A roundup of upcoming legislative changes

Employment Law: A roundup of upcoming legislative changes

Employment Law: A roundup of upcoming legislative changes

As we approach the end of Q1, employers are beginning to ready themselves for the latest round of this year’s employment law changes. With reforms to retained EU employment law being a key driver for a large portion of the changes, the Government have also sought to introduce employment rights aimed at addressing the ever-changing working landscape. In this article, we will look at five key upcoming legislative developments.

1. Flexible working

The Covid-19 pandemic proved to be a key turning point regarding attitudes towards flexible working, highlighting the ways in which flexible working arrangements could mutually benefit employers and employees. This led to many employers embracing it as a new standard practice. Capitalising on the renewed positivity, the Government have introduced reforms to the current regime, with the optimism that the changes will remove barriers to employment for those in greater need of flexibility.

From 6 April 2024, the right to make a flexible working request will become a “day one” right for employees. In addition, employees will be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period, as opposed to the one request which is permitted under the current regime. The changes also remove the requirement for employees to explain the impact that their flexible working request would have on their employer. The removal of this perceived burden is expected to encourage employees to make requests. Also, the timeframe in which an employer has to respond to the flexible working request has been reduced from three months to two.

In conjunction with the new ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working, which is also anticipated to be published on the 6 April 2024, the legislative changes are expected to facilitate improved dialogue between employers and employees around such requests.

2. Paternity Leave

In June 2023, the Government published its response to a consultation on parental leave and pay, which explored various proposals to support families. The response confirmed the Government’s commitment to bring in future legislation aimed at giving fathers and partners more autonomy and flexibility around how and when they can take paternity leave.

The current framework governing statutory paternity leave allows eligible fathers and partners to take either one or two consecutive weeks of paid paternity leave following the birth or adoption of their child. However, for the fathers and partners of children born or adopted on or after 6 April 2024, paternity leave will be able to be taken in two separate one-week blocks. The leave can now be taken at any time within the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. This new entitlement marks quite a substantial relaxation of the current rules which restrict fathers and partners to take the leave in the first eight weeks after birth or adoption. Moreover, the notification process has also been adjusted.  Currently, employees must confirm their entitlement to take paternity leave and the dates that they wish to take paternity leave 15 weeks prior to the child’s expected week of birth or seven days after the date of being matched with a child. Under the new changes, employees are still required to provide 15 weeks notice of entitlement but have more flexibility in regard to the leave period. Employees are now only required to give 28 days notice of the dates that they wisht to take paternity leave which provides for the changing needs of their families.

Whilst campaigners will continue to lobby for more expansive reforms to paternity leave, there is a general acknowledgement that the changes represent improved flexibility for fathers and partners.

3. Unpaid carer’s leave

From 6 April 2024, there will be a new “day one” right available to employees, allowing them to take at least one week of flexible unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.

We have previously explored in detail exactly how the right will work in practice. To read more about carers’ leave, and practical implications for employers, please click here.

4. Enhanced redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents

Prior to making employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave redundant, employers are legally required to offer them suitable alternative redeployment opportunities (if available) as a priority over other employees that are also at risk of redundancy.  The current regime is considered to be a necessary safeguard against the unfavourable treatment of those exercising their family leave rights.

From 6 April 2024, this redundancy protection will be extended further as follows:

Pregnancy / Maternity leave: The period from which redundancy protection begins will now apply from the date the employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy. The protected period will end 18 months after the day on which childbirth occurs, or if the employer was not notified of the birth date, 18 months after the expected week of childbirth. If an employee suffers a miscarriage before the end of 24 weeks of pregnancy, the protected period will end two weeks after their miscarriage.

Adoption leave: The protection period will similarly increase to 18 months, starting from the date of placement. For overseas adoptions, this period will start from the date of entry of the child into Great Britain.

Shared parental leave: For employees that choose to take shared parental leave for 6 or more consecutive weeks, the protection period will also be extended to 18 months from the date of childbirth or placement. For employees that take less than 6 weeks shared parental leave, the protection will only apply during the period of shared parental leave.

The enhanced protections are likely to lead to an increased uptake of employees taking family leave, particularly those looking to utilise shared parental leave. Employers contemplating redundancy processes in the near future will now have to grapple with the potential practical impact that the protections will have on their plans.

5. TUPE consultation

Following the consultation paper launched by the Government in response to their decision to retain all EU derived employment law, it was announced that requirements on employers regarding the TUPE consultation process would be loosened.

At present, employers are required to collectively consult with employees affected by a TUPE transfer through a union representative or an elected employee representative. However, if there is no representative in place, employers with less than 10 employees are permitted to consult directly with employees.

For TUPE transfers taking place on or after 1 July 2024, the circumstances in which smaller businesses can consult directly with their employees will be extended further. Provided there is no existing employee representative in place, an employer can consult directly with employees if:

  1. They have fewer than 50 employees; and
  2. The proposed transfer involves fewer than 10 employees.

The changes are expected to be welcomed by smaller businesses, allowing them to simplify the consultation process, whilst also saving time and costs.

Contact our Employment Solicitors

If you have any questions about this article, or to talk to one of our employment law solicitors, call us today on 0330 175 7621 or email employment@ibblaw.co.uk.