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There are a number of changes to be aware of which are being introduced on 6 April.

Flexible working

The right to request flexible working will become a 'day one' right under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023.  At the same time, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will bring in changes to the flexible working regime.  These changes mean that an employee will no longer have to explain what effect, if any, they think their requested change will have and how this should be dealt with.  They will also be entitled to make two requests in any 12-month period, and an employer won't be permitted to refuse a request unless the employee has been consulted with.  The time for an employer to come to a decision on a request will be reduced from three to two months.

Acas published an updated Code of Practice following a consultation.  This has received Parliamentary approval and will be coming into force on 6 April along with the changes.

Carer's leave

The Carer's Leave Act 2023 introduces a new and flexible statutory entitlement of one week's unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care and will be available to eligible employees from the first day of their employment.

The new entitlement will rely on the carer's relationship with the person being cared for.  Carer's leave is available for dependants, who are defined as a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee, those who live in the same household as the employee and who are not the employee's boarder, employee, lodger or tenant, and who reasonably rely on the employee to provide or arrange care.  The entitlement will also depend on the person being cared for having a long-term care need. This is defined as a long-term illness or injury (physical or mental) that requires (or is likely to require) care for more than three months, a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age.  

The leave may be taken in either individual days or half days (up to a block of one week) and must be taken over a 12-month period. In order to take the leave, notice of either twice as many days as the period of leave required, or three days, whichever is the greater, will have to be given. The notice does not need to be in writing and an employer cannot require evidence in relation to the request before granting the leave. An employer may waive the notice requirement where the other requirements of the regulations have been met.  An employer cannot refuse a request but may postpone the leave where operations would be seriously disrupted by the original dates requested; in those circumstances the postponed leave must begin no later than one month after the first day of the employee's request.

Extension of redundancy protection to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 extend the statutory right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy in a redundancy situation that currently applies to employees on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave.  This right will now apply to pregnant women and to new parents who have recently returned from any period of maternity or adoption leave, or from a period of six or more weeks of shared parental leave.  

An employee's redundancy protection will start when they tell their employer about their pregnancy (notifications made on or after 6 April). If the employee is entitled to statutory maternity leave, the protected period for 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 the pregnancy.

For those on maternity leave, the additional protected period will end 18 months after the expected week of childbirth, unless the employee has informed the employer of the actual date of their child's birth, in which case the additional protected period will end 18 months after that date. For those on adoption leave, the additional protected period ends 18 months after the child's placement or the date they enter Great Britain (in the case of overseas adoptions).

Finally, 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 ends 18 months after the date of the child's birth or placement (or the date they enter Great Britain).

Changes to paternity leave

The Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 make changes to the way in which the statutory entitlement to paternity leave is exercised, including the requirements relating to notice and evidence, the period within which paternity leave must be taken, and the requirement that paternity leave be taken in one continuous period.

The Regulations will:

  • Allow fathers and partners to take their leave as two one-week, non-consecutive blocks (currently if one week is taken, the other week can't be taken on a separate occasion)
  • Allow fathers and partners to take their leave at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of their child (currently it has to be taken within the first eight weeks after birth or adoption).
  • Shorten the notice period required for each period of leave to four weeks.
  • Allow fathers and partners who have given an initial notice to vary any dates given if they give 28 days' notice of the variation. This will enable them to change planned dates at a later stage to suit the needs of their families.

The Regulations will apply to babies whose expected week of birth begins after 6 April 2024, and to 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.