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Changes to paternity leave, redundancy protection, flexible working and carer’s leave explained

AuthorsTrishna Modessa-Parekh

6 min read

Employment, Brabners Personal

Changes to paternity leave redundancy protection flexible working and carers leave explained

The legal landscape surrounding family-friendly policies is set to transform in 2024, with four new regulations taking effect in April.

Here, employment lawyer Trishna Modessa-Parekh explores the key legal changes that employers should look out for in April 2024 and how to prepare. 


1. Increased flexibility around paternity leave

The Paternity Leave (Amendment Regulations) 2024 represent a progressive step towards achieving equality in the workplace. 

Currently, fathers and partners must choose between taking one or two weeks of their statutory leave entitlement at one time during the first eight weeks following childbirth or placement for adoption. They must also confirm these dates 15 weeks before the child arrives.

The new regulations will allow statutory paternity leave to be taken in two separate blocks at any time within the first 52 weeks after the child is born or placed for adoption. So long as parents provide notice of their entitlement to take paternity leave 15 weeks before the child’s due date, they must provide 28 days’ notice of when they wish to take their leave or change these dates.

In domestic adoption cases, parents will still be required to provide notice of paternity leave within seven days of the adopter having received notice of being matched for adoption.

The new regulations will impact families where the expected week of childbirth occurs after 6 April 2024. In adoption cases, the changes will affect families where the adoption placement date — or for overseas adoptions, the child’s date of entry to Great Britain — is on or after 6 April 2024.

These changes will allow fathers and partners to actively participate in the early stages of parenthood at a time that suits them and their partners. This will enhance work-life balance for many and contribute to a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture. 


2. Extending enhanced protection from redundancy

The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations is due to take effect on or after 6 April 2024. Together with the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, these regulations will extend existing redundancy protection to pregnant employees and to new parents who are returning from a period of maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. 

In a redundancy situation, employers must currently offer an employee who is on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave a suitable alternative vacancy within the organisation (where one exists). In practice, these employees receive a priority offer of any alternative employment and have enhanced protection from redundancy.  

The legislation will extend this protection through pregnancy — from the point at which the employee tells their employer that they’re pregnant and for 18 months after the child is born. However, if the employee is not entitled to statutory maternity leave, this protection will end two weeks after the end of their pregnancy. 

In adoption cases, this 18-month period occurs from the date that the child was placed or entered Great Britain. 

This also extends to any parents taking six or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave who haven’t taken maternity or adoption leave.

In all these cases, the protection will continue even if the employee returns to work during the additional protection period. 

This legislation ushers in a new era of equality and protection for parents against the risk of redundancy.  


3. The right to request flexible working from day one

The new statutory regime for allowing employees to make flexible working requests from day one of their employment will apply to applications made on or after 6 April 2024. 

This change removes the requirement for employees to wait until they have at least 26 weeks of continuous employment before submitting a flexible working request. It marks a significant milestone in empowering employees to achieve a better work-life balance. 

Employees will also be allowed to submit up to two applications in a 12-month period (as opposed to only one, currently) and employees will no longer need to explain what effect their flexible working request will have on their employer and how it might be addressed. 

Crucially, employers must respond to a flexible working request within two months instead of three and discuss the request with the employee before refusing their application. 

We recommend that you consider flexible working requests seriously to remove barriers to work and promote an adaptable and accommodating work culture where possible. 

This change enables employees to have more control over managing their personal and professional responsibilities and creates a more satisfied and productive workforce for employers to benefit from. 


4. Carer’s Leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 are expected to come into force on 6 April 2024, acknowledging the diverse caregiving responsibilities that employees may shoulder and the crucial role that caregivers play in our society. 

The draft regulations indicate that employees will be entitled to up to one week’s unpaid leave in each 12-month rolling period from day one of their employment to “provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need”. They will also be entitled to return to the same job as they were doing before the leave was taken. 

Importantly, the leave doesn’t need to be taken in one block but can be taken at a minimum of a half-day at a time. There are minimum notice periods required to be able to take the leave and while employers can’t refuse a request, they can postpone a period of leave by up to one month in certain limited circumstances. 


What should employers do now?

With April fast approaching, now is a good time to familiarise yourself with the changes and how they will impact your workforce. 

Review your current policies and procedures and update them if needed, in-line with the new employee rights and associated employer obligations. While these are the statutory minimum requirements, you may wish to exceed the minimum statutory leave and pay entitlements when considering your own family-friendly policies. 

Alongside any policy and procedure updates, you must communicate policy changes with employees and educate and train managers on the practical impact to the organisation. 

In embracing these family-friendly legal changes, both employers and employees stand to benefit —particularly at a time when attracting and retaining talented individuals is of critical importance.


Talk to us

If you’d like support with reviewing your policies and processes to comply with these changes or require training for your HR teams and managers, our employment team is experienced in family-friendly employment law.

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