Wed 03 Apr 2024

April 2024 employment law changes

April 2024 brings significant new employment rights as well as the annual changes to minimum wage, statutory benefits and tribunal compensation.

New employment rights 

Carer's leave:

The right to take carer's leave is in force from 6 April. The right introduces a flexible entitlement to one week's unpaid leave for employees providing or arranging care for a dependent with a long-term care need. This is a day 1 right with no need for qualifying service. The leave may be taken, subject to notice requirements, as half or full days up to and including a block of a whole week at once.  Employers can postpone, but not refuse, a request for carer's leave, but any alternative dates must be no later than 1 month after the earliest date included in the original request.  Employees are protected from detriment and dismissal because they take or seek to take carer's leave, or the employer believes they are likely to do so.

Paternity leave:

More flexible paternity leave is introduced for new parents of children whose expected week of childbirth is after 6 April 2024, or in the case of adoption, parents of children whose expected date of placement for adoption or expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption, is on or after 6 April 2024. Eligible employees will be able to take their 2 week leave entitlement as 2 separate blocks of one week (rather than taking just one week or two consecutive weeks), and that can be done at any time in the 52 weeks following birth (previously 56 days). 28 days notice of the intention to take the leave is required, changed from a requirement to give notice 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.

Flexible working:

From 6 April, the right to request flexible working becomes a day 1 right with no service requirement. Employees may make 2 flexible working requests in any 12 month period rather than 1 and requests must (in the absence of an agreed extension) be dealt with by the employer within 2 months of receipt rather than 3. Employees are also no longer required to explain the impact their request may have on the employer's business, and how that may be dealt with.  Employers cannot refuse a request without first consulting with the employee.

Protection from redundancy for pregnant woman and new parents:

The existing requirement to offer women and new parents who are on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation has been extended. The "protected period" during which this requirement applies is extended to include pregnancy (from the date that the employer is advised that the employee is pregnant) and for a period of 18 months from the expected week of childbirth or date of placement for adoption. The period is also extended for 18 months following a period of shared parental leave, subject to a parent meeting a minimum 6-week threshold of continuous leave. These changes apply from 6 April.

Holiday entitlement accrual for irregular hours or part-year workers

New rules on calculating annual leave entitlement for irregular hours and part year workers apply for leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024.   Updated guidance from the Department of Business and Trade on the new rules is available here.

Annual changes

National Minimum Wage:

As of 1 April:

  • NLW (for those aged 21 and over) increased to £11.44 per hour
  • NMW (for those aged 18 to 20) increased to £8.60 per hour
  • NMW (for those aged under 18, but at least of school leaving age, and apprentices aged under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship) increased to £6.40 per hour

Note that the age threshold for the NLW has been lowered to apply to workers aged 21 and over, rather than those aged 23 and over.

Statutory Benefits:

Statutory sick pay increases from £109.40 to £116.75 per week (from 6 April). Statutory maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption pay increases from £172.48 to £184.03 per week (from 7 April).

Tribunal Compensation:

The annual Employment Tribunal award limit changes apply to dismissals occurring on or after 6 April 2024.  The limit on compensatory award for unfair dismissal rises from £105,707 to £115,115.

The cap on the compensatory award is the lower of (1) the compensatory award limit or (2) 52 weeks' pay (based on a claimant's gross salary prior to dismissal including employer pension contribution but excluding benefits in kind and discretionary bonus).  There are a limited number of exceptions where the cap does not apply. These are dismissals for whistleblowing or for raising certain health and safety issues. In addition, there is no limit to the award that can be made where a dismissal is related to unlawful discrimination.

The limit on a week's pay (used for calculating statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal) increases from £643 to £700 meaning that the maximum basic award and maximum statutory redundancy payment increases to £21,000.

Guidelines for Injury to Feelings Awards:

An award for injury to feelings is made to compensate for injury to feelings caused by discrimination. The award is separate from an award to compensate for financial loss and can be made even where no financial loss has been suffered.  To assist Employment Tribunals, the Court of Appeal previously set out guidance for quantifying awards for injury to feelings, known as the Vento bands. For claims presented on or after 6 April 2024 the bands are as follows:

Lower band (less serious cases): £1,200 to £11,700 (increasing from £1,100 to £11,200);

Middle band (for cases that do not merit an award in the upper band): £11,700 to £35,200 (increasing from £11,200 to £33,700);

Upper band (most serious cases): £35,200 to £58,700 (increasing from £33,700 to £56,200).

Awards in excess of £58,700 will only be made in the most exceptional cases.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting:

30 March saw the gender pay gap reporting deadline for public sector employers (using 31 March 2023 as a snapshot date).  For private companies and voluntary organisations with 250 or more staff, the reporting deadline was 4 April (using 5 April 2023 as a snapshot date).  After disappointing pay gap statistics in 2023, it is to be hoped that the figures for 2024 show a marked improvement.

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