National living wage expansion among ‘significant’ new employment laws coming into force this spring

A host of new employment legislation comes into force this spring, with changes to the National Living Wage, flexible working and holiday pay all contributing to the most significant changes for years, according to employment law specialist Furley Page.

Patrick Glencross, a senior associate in Furley Page’s employment team, said: “This year is a busy one for incoming employment legislation and the changes will make this one of the most significant years we have seen for a long time. 

“There are several important updates that employers need to know about, including the usual annual increases to statutory rates.” 

This spring sees a raft of new measures introduced to coincide with the new financial year. From 6 April, employees will have increased flexibility in taking paternity leave from following the birth or adoption of a child. An eligible father or partner will be able to take one or two weeks of statutory paternity leave, and the rules around how the time can be taken have been relaxed, while a reduced notice of 28 days will be required, down from 15 weeks.

The government has introduced important changes to the law governing holidays and holiday pay to simplify the rules for workers classified as “irregular hours workers” and “part-year workers”.

Changes include how holiday entitlement is calculated, which will now accrue at the minimum rate of 12.07% of the hours in the previous pay period. Employers of part-year workers and irregular-hours workers will now be able to opt to pay them rolled-up holiday pay (spreading the holiday pay over the year’s wages). 

From 1 April, the National Living Wage will be extended to workers aged 21 and 22. Employers should prepare for annual increases in rates, including rises in the National Living Wage (ranging from £5.28 to £6.40 per hour for apprentices and from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour for workers aged 21 and over), statutory sick pay, family-related statutory pay and redundancy pay. 

From 6 April, pregnant women, mothers who have returned from maternity or adoption leave in the past 18 months and women who have had a miscarriage in the past two weeks will be offered priority for suitable alternative roles should they be made redundant.  

Meanwhile, employees will be able to ask to work flexibly from the first day of employment, rather than needing 26 weeks’ service. An updated Acas statutory code on requests for flexible working is also due to come into force in April 2024.

Also from 6 April, employees providing long-term care to a dependant can ask for one week’s unpaid leave every 12 months to care for that dependant. This is also a right from the first day of employment and the leave can be taken flexibly for any period between half a day and one week. 

Later in the year, from October 2024 employers will be under a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment of their staff during their employment. This duty will sit alongside existing protections from sexual harassment under the Equality Act 2010. 

Patrick continued: “Further legislation is pending, with the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 (which will require employers to share tips without deductions), the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 (which will give greater rights to vulnerable workers), and the draft Statutory Code of Practice on ‘fire and rehire’ dismissals all likely to come into force later this year. 

“These changes represent a broadly welcomed extension of employees’ rights, but employers need to ensure they are fully prepared for these changes when they come into effect from April.

“Contracts, policies and procedures will all need to be adjusted to take account of the new rules and ensure employers do not fall foul of their responsibilities, so taking the time to prepare is essential.” 

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