Springing Ahead: Employers Guide to Statutory Sick Pay & 2024 Employment Laws and Legislation Changes

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Springing Ahead Employers Guide to April Employment Law Changes

April typically brings about revisions to employment laws and legislation, and this year is no different. Here, we outline the essential employment law updates employers should take note of and the necessary actions to follow in response. From the annual rate changes in the minimum wage law to new laws and legislation, keep reading for more information.

Annual Updates to Employment Law Rates and Limits

Starting from 1 April, the national living wage (“NLW”) will be raised. Additionally, this year’s adjustments include lowering the age requirement for the NLW from 23 and above to 21 and above.

The new rates are:

  • NLW (21 and over) will increase from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour.
  • NMW for 18 to 20-year-olds will increase from £7.49 to £8.60 per hour.
  • NMW for 16 and 17-year-olds and apprentices under 19 or in their first year will increase from £5.28 to £6.40 per hour.

It is essential to ensure that you pay your employees the appropriate amount, especially if they earn the national minimum wage or close to it. Extra care must be taken to avoid inadvertent violations of the NMW rules. Breaches in the minimum wage law, even if unintentional, could result in you having to pay significant compensation and even being named and shamed by the government.

Employers should review employment contracts and arrangements for lower-paid workers to make sure they remain compliant.

Here are the increases to Statutory Benefits:

  • *6 April 2024: A statutory sick pay increase from £109.40 to GBP £116.75 per week.
  • *7 April 2024: Statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay, shared parental pay, and parental bereavement pay will increase from £172.48 to £184.03 per week.
  • *8 April 2024: Maternity allowance will increase from £172.48 to £184.03 per week.

Employers will need to budget for the increase in staffing costs and ensure that their payroll is updated to reflect the increases in employee pay. It is also worth reviewing and updating policies that specifically mention rates.

*(Please note that these dates are not confirmed and are expected dates.)

Here are the increases in tribunal compensation limits:

  • The annual Employment Tribunal award limit adjustments are effective for dismissals from 6 April 2024 onwards.
  • The compensatory award limit for unfair dismissal has increased from £105,707 to £115,115.
  • The compensatory award cap is either the compensatory award limit or 52 weeks’ pay based on the claimant’s gross salary before dismissal. This calculation includes employer pension contributions but excludes benefits in kind and discretionary bonuses.
  • There are exceptions to this cap for dismissals related to whistleblowing, certain health and safety concerns, or unlawful discrimination.
  • The weekly pay limit used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal has risen from £643 to £700, resulting in a maximum basic award and statutory redundancy payment of £21,000.

Employers need to consider the implications of this increase in weekly earnings on current and upcoming redundancy processes involving dismissals from 6th April onwards. They should review any initial redundancy payment estimates given to at-risk employees.

The Court of Appeal has provided guidance on determining awards for injury to feelings in discrimination cases, referred to as the Vento bands. An updated version of the Vento bands is anticipated to be released in late March and will be applicable to claims from 6 April 2024 onwards.

Do Employees Have the Right to Carry Over Annual Leave

New Employment Rights: 4 Major Legal Changes

1. Flexible Working

From the 6th of April 2024, the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 will bring about the following changes:

  • Remove the current 26-week continuous service requirement for employees making flexible working requests.
  • Consequently, all employees will have the right to request flexible working from the first day of employment.
  • The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will introduce regulations allowing employees to submit two requests for flexible working annually, as opposed to the current single request.
  • The time frame for employers to address flexible working requests will decrease from three to two months, extendable with employee consent.
  • Employers must consult with employees before rejecting a request, and employees will no longer need to justify the impact of proposed changes to their work arrangements.

Acas has developed a new code of practice for handling flexible working requests, effective from 6th April, to align with the new regulations. Employers must update their flexible working policies and ensure that managers are trained on the updated requirements.

2. Carer’s Leave

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 will come into force on 6 April 2024.

These employment law updates introduce a new legal entitlement for eligible employees to take one week of unpaid carer’s leave annually to provide or organize care for a dependent who:

  • Requires care for over three months due to a physical or mental illness or injury
  • Has a disability as outlined in the Equality Act 2010
  • Needs care due to old age

It is a day-one right, meaning there is no requirement for a certain length of service. Employers should provide training to supervisors to ensure they understand this new benefit.

It is also advisable to establish a carer’s leave policy that clarifies who can be defined as carers and dependants, how much notice is required and what the leave can be used for.

3. Redundancy Protection

On April 6, 2024, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family) Leave Act 2023 will be effective.

The Protection from Redundancy Act expands the redundancy protections to cover pregnant employees who have informed their employer about their pregnancy, as well as those who have recently returned from maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave (of six or more consecutive weeks) up to 18 months after the expected week of childbirth, the child’s birth date, or the date of adoption.

  • For pregnancy-related protection, the new regulations will come into effect if the employee notifies their employer of the pregnancy on or after April 6, 2024.
  • Regarding post-leave periods, the new rules will apply to maternity and adoption leave ending on or after April 6, 2024, and to a continuous six-week period of shared parental leave starting on or after April 6, 2024.
  • Consequently, employers must offer suitable alternative employment, if available, to a broader range of employees during any redundancy process.

It is not a ban on placing these employees at risk or making them redundant. However, extra care should be taken to ensure that those on family leave or who have recently returned are fairly scored; otherwise, you risk being unfairly dismissed and facing discrimination claims.

It is essential to inform managers about upcoming employment law changes.

4. Paternity Leave Regulations

The Paternity Leave Amendment Regulations 2024 have been enacted and will apply if the expected week of childbirth occurs on or after April 6, 2024. The paternity leave regulations allow paternity leave to be divided into two one-week blocks at any time within the first 52 weeks (up from 56 days) following a child’s birth or adoption.

Notice of entitlement to paternity leave must be given during or before the 15th week before the expected week of birth, with at least 28 days’ notice for each period of leave. Employers should update their paternity leave policies and ensure that managers are aware of any employment law changes.

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Other Changes Coming into Effect in April

Calculating holiday pay and leave – for leave years starting on or after April 2024

The government has recently announced that businesses can offer the previously banned “rolled-up holiday pay” (which involves including holiday pay in an employee’s hourly rate) to workers who have irregular hours, like zero-hour and part-year employees.

This means that employers will be able to calculate annual leave for such workers using the 12.07% accrual method, which was previously banned.

Employers of these types of workers will need to review and update their holiday entitlement and pay practices and ensure they are brought up to date.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting:

On March 30th, public sector employers must report the gender pay gap (based on a snapshot date of March 31, 2023). Private companies and voluntary organizations with 250 or more employees have until April 4th to report (based on a snapshot date of April 5, 2023). Following concerning gender pay gap statistics in 2023, it is to be hoped that the figures for 2024 show a marked improvement.

Need Support with Any of These Upcoming Changes?

Support Guidance

Our Employment Law team is available to help you with drafting and reviewing company policies and procedures. Additionally, we offer line manager training to empower your managers with the necessary tools to address these matters.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you. Click here: Avensure Contact!

As always, this article is a guide and not a substitute for taking advice; please contact Avensure for specific advice for your business.