One of the region’s top employment lawyers is warning businesses to be prepared for a raft of legislative changes that will transform workplace policies and pay, and see workers given additional rights.

The warning has come from employment specialist Sally Morris, from Midlands law firm mfg Solicitors, ahead of increases to the national minimum wage and changes to the calculation for holiday allowance for irregular hours workers, as well as paternity leave, unpaid leave for carers, statutory sick pay and pay for new parents. All changes begin to come into force from 1 April.

Ms Morris said the changes were positive for employees but stressed that companies should be “one step ahead” to ensure they are compliant with just a matter of weeks left.

Increases to the national minimum wage will come into effect from 1 April and see a 9.8% increase in hourly pay to £11.44 for over 21s. Rates for 18-20-year-olds will rise to £8.60, an increase of 14.8%. There will also be a 21.2% increase to £6.40 for 16 and 17-year-olds and apprentices.

On the same date, new holiday rules for calculating holiday for workers who work irregular hours or are contracted for only part of the year will also come into force.

Statutory sick pay for all staff will rise from £109.40 to £116.75 per week from 6 April.

Also from 6 April, employees with a dependent requiring long-term care will be permitted to take one week’s unpaid leave in each rolling 12-month period, while the Paternity Leave Amendment Regulations 2024 Act will also come into force.

The new law allows fathers or partners to separate statutory paternity leave into two blocks of one week within the first year – different to the current paternity rules which sees them forced to take one continuous block of one or two weeks’ leave within the first eight weeks. They will also only have to give 28 days’ notice of their intention to take paternity leave, compared to the current 15 weeks.

As part of the raft of changes, statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay, shared parental pay, parental bereavement pay and maternity allowance will all increase from £172.48 to £184.03 per week from 7 April.

Ms Morris, partner and head of employment and HR services at law firm mfg Solicitors, said: “These government changes are significant as they will require businesses and HR teams to be prepared for a change in workplace policies, while ensuring their paperwork, templates, handbooks and other literature is amended in time and in-line with the new rules.

“There are some positive changes here but all employers must be well-read on the new rules and what it means for them and their businesses, including being prepared for additional periods that employees may be absent from work.

“As with all employment legislation changes, companies and HR teams need to stay one step ahead so they can advise employees properly and protect themselves.”

For any further advice on the April changes, readers can contact Sally through email on [email protected].