Employment Update from Hunter Adams – Q1 2024

Paternity Leave changes 2024

As of 8 March 2024, fathers and partners can take paternity leave and pay as two non-consecutive blocks of one week, rather than only one block of either one or two weeks.

Paternity leave and pay can also now be taken within the first year after the birth or adoption of a child, rather than only within the first eight weeks after birth or placement.

To accommodate the changing needs of families, employees can now give 28 days’ notice prior to each period of leave, enabling individuals to decide when to take their leave at shorter notice.

In recognition that the adoption process can be less predictable than birth, and children may be placed with their adoptive parents on short notice following a match, in adoption cases, individuals can still provide notice to take paternity leave within seven days of receiving notice of having been matched with a child.

Please note: This change in legislation affects children whose expected week of childbirth is on or after 6 April 2024,  and children whose expected date of placement for adoption, or expected date of entry into Great Britain for adoption, is on or after 6 April 2024.


Redundancy protection

Further to our 2023 Q4 employment update, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 contains a power for regulations to be made to extend the current right to be offered suitable alternative vacancies in a redundancy situation for employees on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave (relevant leave) so that it would apply during pregnancy and for a period after taking relevant leave (“additional protected period”).

Please see below a snapshot of the upcoming changes:

  • Pregnancy. Redundancy protection will start when an employee tells their employer about their pregnancy. If the employee is entitled to statutory maternity leave, the protected period of pregnancy will end on the day the statutory maternity leave starts. If the pregnancy ends and the employee is not entitled to statutory maternity leave, the protected period ends two weeks after the end of pregnancy.
  • Maternity leave. The additional protected period will end 18 months after the expected week of childbirth, unless the employee has informed the employer of the date of their child’s birth, in which case the additional protected period will end 18 months after that date.
  • Adoption leave. The additional protected period ends 18 months after the child’s placement or the date they enter Great Britain (in the case of overseas adoptions).
  • Shared parental leave. For individuals taking six or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave but who have not taken maternity or adoption leave, the additional protected period ends 18 months after the date of the child’s birth or placement (or date they enter Great Britain).

Please note: Where the protected period covers pregnancy, the new rules would apply where the employee notifies their employer of their pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024. Where it relates to a period after relevant leave, the new rules would apply to maternity and adoption leave ending on or after 6 April 2024 and to a period of six consecutive weeks’ shared parental leave starting on or after 6 April 2024.


National Minimum wage and National Living wage rises – April 2024

National minimum wage and National Living wage rise every year, but in April 2024 we’re set to see more than just the standard change.

Currently, workers aged 23 and over receive the highest rate of pay for national living wage and workers who are 21 and 22 receive a lower rate. However, this band is going to disappear meaning 21 and 22 year olds will be entitled to receive the highest band bracket.

Please see below the new rates you’ll need to make note of and implement:

  • For those over compulsory school age but not yet 18:  £6.40 per hour (National Minimum Wage) (up from £5.28).
  • For apprentices aged 19 and under (or 19 and over and in their first year of their apprenticeship) – £6.40 per hour (up from £5.28)
  • For those aged 18 to 20 – £8.60 per hour (National Minimum wage) (up from £7.49)
  • For anyone aged 21 and over – £11.44 per hour (National Living wage) (up from £10.42)

You’ll need to make sure you pay your workers the correct wage if they earn on or around the national Minimum / Living wage. If you underpay workers (even accidentally), this could lead to you having to pay compensation due, face fines and the Company name being published on the government’s name and shame list.

Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Retention of staff is a top priority for most employers and your ability to flex your employer brand and your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) has never been more important. To find out more about EVP and how you can enhance your understanding of what this looks like at your organisation, read our blog written by Paula Simmons, an employer brand expert and Hunter Adams associate consultant.

If you’re interested in exploring how we can help your organisation better manage its employer brand, please get in touch with us at team.admin@hunteradams.co.uk

Fit Notes

The UK government have announced that it plans to consult on reform to the fit note system to make it easier and quicker for individuals to receive specialised work and health support. There are currently no specific details of the proposals for reform, however, the reform aims to support individuals with long-term health conditions, disabilities or long-term unemployment to look for and stay in work, alongside tougher sanctions for those who do not look for work.

The government has made it clear that GP surgeries will continue to play an important role in supporting people’s health and ability to work, but recognise that pressures on time and expertise mean they cannot always hold work and health conversations effectively.

The rollout of reforms will begin with trials in a small number of Integrated Care Boards, which will offer better triage, signposting and support to those have received a fit note for a prolonged period of time. The trial is intended to inform the launch of a consultation on reforms to the fit note process, better integrating it with easy and rapid work and health support.


At Tribunal

An employment tribunal has ruled that stress can be considered disability without a formal mental health diagnosis from a doctor.

At a preliminary hearing in September 2023, an employee pursued a claim for disability discrimination and complaints about deductions from wages and holiday pay. The employee told the tribunal that she experienced stress at work and dermatitis, which she argued could be considered disabilities. Her medical records showed several fit notes that stated that she was unfit for work because of work-related stress. The employee gave evidence that demonstrated that there had been times she was unable to leave her house and socialise with others as a result, and also she stated that her ability to concentrate had been affected, as had her sleep.

For an employment tribunal to determine that disability discrimination has taken place, it must first consider whether the claimant’s impairment meets the definition of disability under the Equality Act: a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out daily activities.

For an impairment to be considered long term, it must have lasted, or is likely to last, at least 12 months.

The tribunal found that the effects of the work-related stress presented by the employee on her ability to carry out day-to-day activities were substantial adverse effects and had lasted over a long period of time. The judge said the law did not indicate that there was a requirement for there to be a formal diagnosis of a mental illness for a tribunal to determine that the employee’s mental health had an adverse effect on her work.

With regard to the dermatitis the employee experienced, the employee explained that the dermatitis resulted from an allergic reaction to latex gloves used at work in 2016, and following this incident the employee used vinyl gloves and suffered no further reaction. However in 2021 she was told that she could no longer use vinyl gloves at work and was required to trial other types of gloves, some of which caused her to suffer another allergic reaction.

The tribunal found that dermatitis had some effect on the employee’s ability to do her job, but this was not substantial and could be managed by using other types of gloves. As such, the tribunal found that her dermatitis could not be considered a disability.

The judge, however, ruled that the employee could pursue a disability discrimination claim in respect of work-related stress, but did not make a finding concerning whether discrimination had taken place.


New retained HR Service from Hunter Adams

You may have seen on social media that we are launching a new retained HR service, offering clients 100 minutes of HR support for just £135 per month. As a regular user of our HR services you may be interested to learn more about this service, so look out for an email with more details coming shortly.