Employment Law General Update – April 2024

With the new tax year comes plenty of changes to make yourself aware of. We have a whole raft of key employment changes such as to rates of statutory pay and leave, including a new system of working out holiday entitlement for irregular and part-year workers. There are new toolkits and guidance in relation to Requests for Flexible Working, Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination and how to use AI in recruitment processes. Lastly, there’s something for everyone with the launch of the Environment Agency’s new Portal to report wrong doing for water company employees. Afterall, it’s April showers time!

  • New Law: Summary of Key Employment Law Changes from April 2024
  • Holiday Entitlement: Changes from April for Irregular Hours Workers and Part-year Workers
  • ACAS: Revised Code of Practice on Requests for Flexible Working Published
  • Discrimination: EHRC Publishes Updates to Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Toolkits
  • Recruitment: DSIT Publishes Guidance on Responsible Use of AI in Recruitment
  • Whistleblowing: The Environment Agency Launches Portal for its Workers to Report Wrongdoing

New Law: Summary of Key Employment Law Changes from April 2024

The following changes took effect from 1 April 2024:
  • changes to the calculation of holiday pay for irregular hours workers and part-year workers;
  • the national living wage and national minimum wage annual increase;
  • removal of the exemption for live-in domestic workers (e.g. nannies and au pairs) from the national minimum wage; and
  • minimum rates of remuneration for agricultural workers in Wales increase.
The following changes took effect from 6 April 2024:
  • the right to request flexible working becomes a day one right and changes to requests for flexible working, including a revised ACAS Code of Practice;
  • changes to paternity leave and pay;
  • introduction of carer’s leave;
  • extension of existing requirements that apply to employers when redundancy situations arise where an employee is on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, so that those requirements can also apply during pregnancy and for a period of time after that leave has ended;
  • amendments to employment tribunal rules on responses;
  • increases to the tribunal compensation limits;
  • increases to the Vento bands for making awards for injury to feelings;
  • increase to the rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP);
  • the weekly earnings limits and thresholds, used for determining liability to Class 1 NICs remain unchanged, including the lower earnings limit of £123 per week, below which employees are not entitled to SSP, Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP), Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP) or Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP);
  • reduction in the Class 1 NIC main primary percentage from 10% to 8%;
  • extension for a further year of the employer NICs relief for employers hiring qualifying veterans;
  • a freeze to the rates of Van Benefit and Car and Van Fuel Benefit;
  • increases to the threshold and rate for high income child benefit charge;
  • the lifetime allowance on tax-relieved pensions savings is replaced with a lump sum allowance and a lump sum and death benefit allowance.
The following changes took effect from 7 April 2024:
  • the rates of SMP, SPP, SAP, SSPP and SPBP are increased.
The following changes took effect from 8 April 2024:
  • the rate of maternity allowance (MA) is increased.

For some of the most common rates see our Employment Law Facts and Figures 2024.

Changes to Rights to Leave from 6 April:

Changes have been made by the Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, SI 2024/329 and the Statutory Paternity Pay (Amendment) Regulations 2024, SI 2024/121 to the statutory right to paternity leave and pay, where the expected week of childbirth begins after 6 April 2024 or, in the case of adoption, the expected date of placement is on or after that date. The main changes are that:

  • the two-week paternity leave entitlement can be taken in two non-consecutive blocks of one week, rather than just as a block of either one week or two weeks, and
  • leave can be taken at any time in the first year after birth or placement for adoption, rather than just in the first eight weeks.

The Employment Rights Act 1996, ss 80J-80N and the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024, SI 2024/251, give eligible employees the ‘day one’ right to unpaid time off to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need. Carers may take up to one week of unpaid leave in a 12-month rolling period.

Enhanced protection from redundancy is available to employees during pregnancy, maternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave, and for an additional period after those types of statutory family-related leave.

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Holiday Entitlement: Changes from April for Irregular hours workers and part-year workers

For leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, the Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 (Amendment Regulations 2023), SI 2023/1426 amended the Working Time Regulations 1998, SI 1998/1833 to introduce (among other things) different provisions for calculating holiday entitlement and pay in respect of irregular hours workers and part-year workers.

In summary:

  • a different method for calculating how much holiday entitlement has been accrued, namely it is at 12.07% of the hours worked in the pay period;
  • there is just one pot of holiday entitlement, rather than the usual distinction for other workers, i.e. the four weeks’ basic entitlement and 1.6 weeks’ additional entitlement. This has implications for how much leave can potentially be carried-over and which payments are to be taken into account when calculating holiday pay.
  • the employer has the option of paying rolled-up holiday (which it is not able to do in respect of other workers).

The main reason for these amendments was to reverse the effect of the Supreme Court decision in Harpur Trust v Brazel, which had resulted in some anomalies whereby part-year or irregular hours workers could end up with a more generous paid holiday entitlement than a year-round worker with normal hours who worked more hours over the year. A consultation was carried out by BEIS in January 2023 in order to simplify the assessment procedure, and this is the result.

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ACAS: Revised Code of Practice on Requests for Flexible Working published

On 6 April 2024 the revised Code of Practice on requests for flexible working (SI 2024/429), which has been issued by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) under section 199 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, came into effect.

It provides that the revised Code of Practice does not apply to applications for flexible working made under the Employment Rights Act 1996, s 80F which are made on or before 5 April 2024 except that any such application will be taken into account in determining whether an employee is prevented from making an application by section 80F(4) of that Act.

From 6 April 2024, the statutory right to request flexible working is amended so that:

  • employees have the right to make a flexible working request from the first day of employment, thereby removing the need for any qualifying period of service
  • employees may make two flexible working requests, rather than one, during any period of 12 months
  • employees no longer have to explain the effect of the proposed change on the employer’s business as part of their request
  • the employer must consult the employee before deciding not to accept a request
  • the decision period for an employer to respond to a request for flexible working is reduced from three, to two, months

See the revised ACAS Code of Practice on Flexible Working here. This replaces the previous version which was published in June 2014.

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Discrimination: EHRC Publishes Updates to Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Toolkits

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published updates to its guidance on pregnancy and maternity discrimination at work. The changes to the various toolkits have been made to reflect a number of changes which have come into effect in April 2024.

The changes to the toolkits include:

  • the extension of protection from redundancy to include pregnant women and those on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave;
  • offering suitable alternative employment to pregnant women and those on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave in a redundancy situation, including giving priority over other employees regarding alternative roles;
  • providing the right to request flexible working from the first day of employment;
  • increasing flexibility in how paternity leave can be taken.

See these links for more information:

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Recruitment: DSIT publishes guidance on responsible use of AI in recruitment

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) have published ‘Responsible AI in Recruitment’ guidance. It centres on ensuring good practice for the procurement and deployment of AI systems for HR and recruitment. It specifically focuses on technologies used in the hiring process, such as sourcing, screening, interview and selection. AI can automate and simplify these processes. However, it also highlights risks such as perpetuating existing biases, digital exclusion, and discriminatory job advertising and targeting.

Read the full guidance here.

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Whistleblowing: The Environment Agency launches portal for its workers to report wrongdoing

The Environment Agency (EA) has launched a whistleblowing portal, allowing water industry workers to report serious environmental wrongdoing by their water companies. Internal water company whistleblowers are encouraged to alert the EA to any concerns, which will then be assessed by the regulator’s expert intelligence teams. Reporters’ identities will be protected and treated as confidential sources. The portal builds on the whistleblowing reports that the EA can already receive under the Prescribed Persons (Reports on Disclosures of Information) Regulations 2017, SI 2017/507.

Guidance on the portal can be found here.

EA employees can email reports to whistleblowing@environment-agency.gov.uk. Non-employees of the EA can send reports by mailing raiseaconcern@environment-agency.gov.uk.

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Further Information:

If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: hello@dixcartuk.com

The information provided within this document is for general informational purposes only. While every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are advised that laws and practices may change over time. This document is provided solely for informational purposes and does not constitute accounting, legal, or tax advice. Professional advice should be sought before making any decisions based on the contents of this document.