A number of key changes to employment law have taken effect as of the 6th April, greatly expanding the rights of workers in England and Wales. So, what additional rights do workers have due to the new legislation? Let’s take a look at the 2024 employment law changes introduced by the government.


Right to request flexible working from day one of employment


A major change is the right for employees to request flexible working from day one of employment. Previously, this was something which could only be requested after 26 weeks of continuous employment.


We previously covered the flexible working act here.


It is important to point out that this is not a right to flexible working for employees, but a right to request it. Employers should therefore make their decision as to whether to allow an employee to work flexibly in how they previously approached it.


The following will also apply:


  • New requirements for employers to consult with the employee before rejecting their flexible working request.
  • Permission to make two statutory requests in any 12-month period (rather than the current one request).
  • Reduced waiting times for decisions to be made (within which an employer administers the statutory request) from three months to two months.
  • The removal of existing requirements that the employee must explain what effect, if any, the change applied for would have on the employer and how that effect might be dealt with.


New protections from redundancy for pregnant employees 


Another big change is the expansion of redundancy protection during pregnancy through the Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Paternal Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024.


Employees who are now on maternity leave, adoption leave or on shared paternal leave now have an extended period of special protection from redundancy.


pregnancy, business, work and people concept - pregnant businesswoman sitting at office


Pregnancy and maternity leave


Changes to the rules mean that pregnant employees are protected from the moment they tell their employer they are pregnant as well as for an extended period following their return to work from statutory maternity leave. This extended period is calculated as being 18 months following the first day of the expected week of childbirth.


In order to qualify for these new rules, the employer must be informed of the pregnancy on or after 6th April 2024. For the additional protected period, it is for any maternity leave which ends on or after 6th April 2024.


There are also greater protections for employees who have suffered a miscarriage. This means that they are protected for a period of two weeks after the pregnancy ends.


Adoption leave


Employees will be protected during their adoption leave (52 weeks, same as maternity leave) as well as for an additional protected period when they return to work. This is calculated from the day the child is placed for adoption with the employee for a period of 18 months


Shared parental leave


Finally, shared parental leave rights are also being expanded. Employees are now protected during shared parental leave in addition to when they return to work.


In the case of shared parental leave, this is calculated from the child’s birth date/their placement for adoption for a period of 18 months. It is important to note that this additional protection period will only be available if:

  • The employee has taken at least six weeks of continuous shared parental leave, and:
  • Will apply to shared parental leave which starts on or after 6th April 2024


However, this protection will not apply if the employee is already protected by the maternity or adoption leave provisions above.


Carer’s leave


Another change concerns major changes to carer’s leave in the form of the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024.


Like the request for flexible working, this is a day one right. It is limited to one week of unpaid leave per year. Those who qualify are employees who are caring for a dependant who have a long-term care need.  The definition of a dependent includes a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household, or someone who reasonably relies on the employee for care.


Holiday Pay


Finally, changes to holiday pay have also come into effect. While technically it came into force on 1st January 2024, the change only applies to holiday years which start on or after 1st April 2024. For those whose leave years run from January to December, their leave years will not be impacted until January 2025.


Group of happy people enjoy travel and summer holiday vacation together having fun under the sun - blue ocean water in background and sky - joyful adults smile with cheerful expressions


Calculation of holiday pay for irregular or part-year workers


For leave years which begin on or after April 2024, holiday entitlement for part-year workers or irregular-hours workers will be calculated in hours instead of weeks. Holiday entitlement will be accrued at the rate of 12.07% of hours which have been worked in a pay period – capped at 28 days. Under the legislation, an irregular hours worker is defined as someone whose working hours are “wholly or mostly” variable under their contract. Meanwhile, a part-year worker is someone who is only required to work part of the year. They have periods within the year where they are not paid as they are not required to work.


Rolled-up holiday pay for irregular hours and part-year workers


Furthermore, employers will also have the right to implement rolled-up holiday pay for irregular hours and part-year workers. Instead of being paid at the time that holiday is taken, holiday pay for these workers can be paid as an uplift of 12.07% to the normal rate of pay at the time that the work is done. This has been introduced despite concerns that workers may be deterred from taking holiday and getting enough rest from their job.


Changes to how a week’s pay is defined for holiday pay calculations


Group of employees


From 1st January 2024, the 4 weeks of statutory holiday pay must be calculated based on a worker’s normal rate of pay, in addition to any other additional payments such as regular overtime, commission, bonus, call out etc. This is derived from EU case law.


However, the remaining 1.6 weeks of statutory holiday continue to be subject to how a week’s pay was previously defined under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is dependent on whether the worker works normal working hours.


Changes to the right to carry over holiday pay


Previously, EU case law provided for a worker to carry over their holiday entitlement to the next holiday pay if a worker has been unavoidably prevented from taking holiday due to statutory family leave. EU law also provided for an worker to carry over their annual leave if they had been prevented from doing so by their employer. These rights have now been codified in UK law, giving employers greater confidence and understanding of how to enforce them.


In practise, this means that a worker may carry over up to 28 days of holiday each year if they are unable to take paid holiday during their leave year due to:


  • The employee being off due to maternity leave or any other family-related leave
  • The employee has been off sick
  • The employer refuses to pay a worker their holiday pay entitlement
  • The employer fails to make the worker aware that their untaken holiday will be lost at the end of their leave year
  • The employer fails to give the worker the opportunity to take holiday leave, or has failed to encourage them to do so


Our thoughts


In conclusion, the recent changes to employment law in England and Wales mark a significant shift towards enhancing workers’ rights and flexibility in the workplace. With the expansion of rights such as the right to request flexible working from day one, extended redundancy protections for pregnant employees, and the introduction of carer’s leave, employees now have greater support and options to balance their work and personal lives.


Furthermore, amendments to holiday pay calculations and carryover provisions aim to ensure fair treatment for part-year and irregular-hours workers, enabling them to access their entitled holiday benefits more effectively.


Following the introduction of these new regulations, it is incumbent upon employers to familiarise themselves with these updated rights and obligations and to update their company policies and procedures. Employers should also ensure that managers are aware of the updates in order to be able to implement them.


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