Employment and pensions

What UK future foods businesses should know about recent employment law developments

Published on 3rd May 2024

New rates and limits, legislation on flexible working and family-friendly leave, and redundancy protection are some of the areas of change for employers.

Rate and limits for the minimum wage and statutory rates for various types of leave and pay have changed from April 2024.

Minimum wage

This has recently undergone an increase – the updated rates that employers should adhere to are:

  • 21 and over: The minimum wage for individuals aged 21 and over has increased to £11.44, reflecting a rise of £1.02.
  • 18 to 20: For individuals aged between 18 and 20, the minimum wage has been set at £8.60, which marks an increase of £1.11.
  • 16 to 17 and apprentices: Individuals aged 16 to 17 and apprentices now have a minimum wage of £6.40, representing a rise of £1.12.

Statutory rates for various types of leave and pay

Maternity, paternity, shared parental, and adoption pay: The statutory rate for these types of leave is £184.03 per week. However, if 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings is less than the statutory rate, then they will receive 90% of their average weekly earnings instead.

Bereavement pay: The statutory rate for bereavement pay is also set at £184.03 per week.

Statutory sick pay: The new statutory sick pay rate is £116.75 per week. This is the amount that eligible employees will receive if they are unable to work due to illness or injury.

Weekly pay limit for ET awards: The weekly pay limit for Employment Tribunal (ET) awards will increase from £643 to £700. This limit is used to calculate certain types of compensation awarded by the ET, such as redundancy pay and unfair dismissal compensation.

Maximum compensatory award on unfair dismissal claims: The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal claims will increase from £105,707 to £115,115. This represents the maximum amount of compensation that an employee can be awarded if they are successful in an unfair dismissal claim.

New legislation on flexible working

New legislation has been introduced to promote and support flexible working arrangements:

Day one right: under the new legislation, employees now have the right to make a flexible working request from day one of their employment.

Increased request frequency: employees are now permitted to make up to two flexible working requests within a 12-month period. This provides employees with more opportunities to request adjustments to their working arrangements that better suit their needs.

Decision timeframe: employers have an obligation to make a decision on a flexible working request within two months of receiving it. This ensures that employees receive a timely response to their request, allowing them to plan their work and personal lives accordingly.

Consultation requirement: before denying a flexible working request, employers should now engage in a consultation process with the employee who made the request.

Removal of impact statement requirement: previously, employees were required to state the potential impact of their proposed flexible working arrangement on the business. However, this requirement has been removed, relieving employees of the burden of having to justify the impact of their request.

Paternity leave

Changes have been introduced to enhance flexibility for fathers and partners in taking paternity leave. The key points include:

  • Non-consecutive leave: paternity leave can now be two separate one-week blocks, instead of being limited to one continuous block of one or two weeks.
  • Extended timeframe: paternity leave can be taken at any point during the first year after the birth or adoption of the child.
  • Flexibility in changing dates: if a father or partner needs to change the dates of their leave, they can now do so by giving 28 days' notice of the variation.

Carer's leave

There is also new legislation for carer's leave:

  • Day one right: Employees no longer need to wait for a period of time before making a request.
  • Care for a dependant: leave can be taken to care for a dependant with a qualifying long term care need.
  • Half or full days: employees can take carer's leave in either half-day or full-day increments.
  • Compliance with notice requirements: specific notice requirements must be followed by employees when requesting it.
  • Postponement option: employers can postpone the leave if granting the request would unduly disrupt business operations, subject to certain requirements being met.
  • Compensation for breach: ETs have the authority to award a "just and equitable" compensation for a breach.

Protection on redundancy

There is now enhanced protection from redundancy for employees who take certain types of leave. Failure by employers to comply with these protections could give rise to automatic unfair dismissal and potential discrimination claims.

Pregnancy: if an employee informs their employer of their pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024, they will be entitled to enhanced protection from redundancy during their pregnancy.

Maternity or adoption leave: employees who have taken a period of maternity or adoption leave that ends on or after 6 April 2024 will have enhanced protection from redundancy for a period of 18 months after the end of their leave.

Shared parental leave: subject to specific conditions, employees who take a period of shared parental leave starting on or after 6 April 2024 will be entitled to enhanced protection from redundancy for a period of 18 months after the start of their leave.

Osborne Clarke comment

Businesses should be aware of these new changes in order to ensure compliance and mitigate against the risk of related ET claims. This will become increasingly important for future foods businesses as they scale their workforce. Employers should take the necessary steps to review their HR policies and systems, ensuring they are in line with these updates. It is also important to train managers and staff so that everyone is aware of these changes and can act accordingly.

We are well equipped to assist with navigating these changes and providing guidance on employment matters. If you require any further information or assistance, please do reach out.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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