New family friendly employment rights for 2024

There is a raft of new legislation coming into effect in 2024 which could help those balancing work and family life.

Flexible working policy concept. Piece of paper on table.

2024 will see a range of different employment rights coming on stream in England, Scotland and Wales, many of which will be of interest to working parents.

First is the right to request flexible working from day one in a new job. It will come into effect from April 6th. Later in the year, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will come into effect which includes provisions such as the right to make two requests for flexible working in a year [up from one] and a reduction of one month in the time employers have to consider a request.

Under existing flexible working legislation, employees can claim any form of flexible working. They do not have to give a reason why they need it, but employers do not have to grant it. There are eight broad business reasons why an employer can refuse it:

1. The burden of additional costs
2. An inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff
3. An inability to recruit additional staff
4. A detrimental impact on quality
5. A detrimental impact on performance
6. Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
7. Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
8. Planned structural changes to the business.

However, under the new legislation employers will be required to consult with employees and the stipulation that employees need to make a business case for their request by considering the impact on their employer has been removed. Nevertheless, employment law experts say that it is a good idea to show that you have taken this into account and could help push your request over the line.

From 8th March, under the Paternity Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, fathers or partners of children whose expected week of birth begins after 6th April will be able to divide their statutory paternity leave into one-week blocks rather than taking it all at once and to take it at any point during the first year after the birth.

Other regulations coming in in April as the result of Private Members’ Bills include The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, which will extend the period of protection from redundancy for employees who are on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave to include the entire pregnancy and 18 months after the estimated week of childbirth or the date of birth or adoption and The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 (Commencement) Regulations 2023 which allows for five days of unpaid leave a year, with notice of twice the length of time to be taken off and protection from dismissal or detriment for carers taking the leave.

Other changes this year include:

-The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act. This will come into force this year, meaning people on atypical contracts, including  zero hours contracts and fixed-term contracts of less than 12 months, will be able to make a formal application to change their working patterns to make it more predictable. Once a worker has made their request, their employer will be required to notify them of their decision within a month.

Meanwhile, The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 is expected to come into force in April 2025. The Act will allow parents of new born babies who are hospitalised in their first 28 days of life for seven days or more, the right to take neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks. The aim is to enable parents to spend more time with their babies who are having crucial care without having to worry about taking unpaid leave or returning to work. Parents who take neonatal leave and pay will also be entitled to return to the same job after their period of absence.

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