Extended Maternity Protection | Davis Blank Furniss

Shiva Shadi, Head of Employment: Important Changes to Paternity Leave, Flexible Working Requests, New Carers Rights and Extended Pregnancy and Maternity Protection

There is a flurry of incoming, family friendly rights for employees, which have come have come into effect and will be applicable in the large from 6th April 2024. Therefore, organisations have a number of weeks to update the polices and procedures and ensure their management and HR teams are up to date with these latest changes.  The changes coming in give additional and extended rights to employees. The main changes are:

Changes to Paternity Leave Rules

Up to now an employee had to take a block of two weeks within 56 days of their baby being born.  However, in relation to births from 6th April 2024 onwards, the following changes apply:

  • An employee may choose either a single period of leave of either one week or two weeks, or two non-consecutive periods of leave of a week each.
  • An employee will also have 52 weeks after the date of the birth to take paternity leave.

Changes to Carer’s Leave Rules

  • To qualify for carer’s leave, an employee must meet the below requirements:

(a) have a dependant with a long-term care need,

(b) want to be absent from work to provide or arrange care for that dependant, and

(c) have not exceeded their entitlement

  • Carers will be entitled to a week’s leave during any period of 12 months.
  • The employee can take a minimum of a half day and a maximum of one continuous week as their leave.

Changes to Maternity Rights

There is extensive protection in respect of pregnant employees and those on maternity already in place under the Equality Act 2010 however these are now being extended with additional protection against dismissals. Previously if the role of an employee on maternity leave was placed at risk of redundancy she would be automatically entitled to alternative available positions before an employee not on maternity leave. Going forward however this protection is extended so that:

  • If the position of a pregnant employee is at risk of redundancy, then that individual will have priority for deployment above other employees.
  • The new protection applies to pregnancies notified to an employer on or after 6th April 2024 and maternity/adoption leave ending on or after 6 April 2024. In respect of shared parental leave, the new protection applies to employees taking at least six weeks of shared parental leave which begins on or after 6th April 2024.
  • For employees that take maternity leave the protection starts from the date they notify their employer of the pregnancy and ends 18 months from the child’s date of birth if notified to their employer before the end of their maternity leave (or 18 months from the Expected Week of Childbirth if not notified).
  • There are also extended protection for those who unfortunately suffer a miscarriage, those on adoption leave and also those who take shared parental leave.

Flexible Work Requests

  • The requirement to have been employed for 26 weeks has been removed and going forward this will be a “day- one” right.
  • Employees will now also be able to make a request twice in a 12-month period.
  • Employers will have two months to deal with a request.
  • Employers must consult with an employee before a decision is taken to refuse their request.
  • Am employee also no longer needs to set out how they believe their request will impact others or the business.

Next Steps

Employers would also be advised to ensure their managers and decision makers are aware of the changes so as to avoid not only a myriad of potential discrimination claims that could flow from breaches of the changes coming into force but automatic unfair dismissal, which would mean a compensatory award that is not capped (and does not require two years’ qualifying service).

Employers should ensure that all the policies and procedure comply with all the changes that are coming into force.

Systems should be put in place where key dates are recorded.

Employers with imminent restructures and redundancy procedures should ensure that individuals with extended protection are identified with their key dates specially if there has not been a diarised system in place.

If you would like further guidance on the upcoming changes, please do not hesitate to contact Shiva Shadi, Head of the Employment Department on 0161 832 3304.


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