Legal Changes Impacting Women in 2024: What Businesses and Employees Should Know

12 March 2024

With both International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day happening in March, now is the perfect time to recognise and appreciate the contributions of the women in our lives, celebrate their strides towards equality, and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. In 2024, the UK is introducing new legislation to be implemented over the next couple of years to encourage gender equality, prevent discrimination against women in the workplace, and support new and expectant mothers. These key pieces of legislation are the Neonatal (Leave and Care) Act, the Protection from Redundancy Act, changes to flexible working, the Carer’s Leave Act, and an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

As these critical legal reforms become law, new and expectant mothers, employed women, HR professionals, and employers must examine the new rights and ramifications represented by these laws. As with any changes to employment law, these reforms will come with their rights and responsibilities on the part of both employees and their employers. In this article, we’ll explore what each of these pieces of legislation entails, what they may mean for you, and the ongoing fight to support women and guarantee gender equality in 2024.

The Neonatal (Leave and Care) Act

Juggling a career with motherhood is an age-old struggle for working people, and having a sick newborn baby is stressful enough for parents without also having to worry about their jobs. Starting in April 2025, it is anticipated that parents of newborns who require hospitalisation within the first 28 days of life for a duration of 7 days or more will be granted the opportunity to use neonatal leave and receive a statutory rate of pay (subject to eligibility) for up to 12 weeks. This legislation, entitled the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act, will allow parents to dedicate more time to their infants receiving specialised care, alleviating concerns about taking unpaid leave or rushing back to work.

Additionally, parents who choose neonatal leave and pay, which is expected to be at the statutory pay rate or, if lower, 90% of the employee’s average earnings per week, will have the right to return to their previous job with the same employer after their period of absence. The Neonatal Care Act will give parents peace of mind about their employment situation and aims to provide equal support and opportunities for both expectant parents to care for their newborns during a critical period of their development.

Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act

Even though being made redundant due to pregnancy in the UK is illegal, according to a recent survey, up to 54,000 women in the UK could be forced out of their jobs each year due to less favourable treatment during pregnancy. From 6 April 2024, it will become more difficult for employers to discriminate against pregnant employees based on pregnancy or during maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave, during the redundancy process.

This protection from being made redundant will give women more leeway to have children without interrupting their careers by removing some of the work-related vulnerability that can arise with their pregnancy. The type and level of redundancy protection received depends on the reason for taking family leave. It is also worth noting that a pregnant employee can still be made redundant in a genuine redundancy situation, like if their role requires fewer employees, but cannot be made redundant because they are pregnant or on maternity leave, which would be considered “automatic unfair dismissal.”

Priority Status for Suitable Alternative Vacancies

This special protection during a redundancy situation will cover pregnancy, as well as parental leave returners from shared parental leave, adoption, or maternity leave, ensuring they have priority status when suitable alternative vacancies and redeployment opportunities become available.

Failure by employers to offer suitable alternative employment to recently returned parents, where a suitable alternative vacancy is available, could result in a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and possible unlawful discrimination claims. Employers will need to make certain that their redundancy procedures are updated to account for this legislation and ensure managers understand their obligations to offer a protected employee a suitable alternative vacancy if needed.

Employees should be aware that if they are offered a suitable alternative vacancy after being made redundant and choose to unreasonably decline it, they will forfeit their right to a statutory redundancy payment.

Redundancy Pay

Pregnancy does not impact an employee’s entitlement to receive both contractual redundancy pay and contractual maternity pay from their employer. Employees who have worked continuously in their role for two years or more and are made redundant are eligible for statutory redundancy pay, which is determined by factors such as length of service, weekly pay, and age.

Parental leave is considered part of continuous employment for redundancy pay purposes, even if the employee was not actively working during that period. If an employee is on such leave, their redundancy pay should be determined based on their pay before the start of their statutory leave period. It should not be calculated based on benefits such as Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, or Shared Parental Pay.

Redundancy protection applies in the following situations:


Redundancy protection becomes effective when the pregnant employee informs their employer of their pregnancy on or after April 6, 2024. If the employee qualifies for statutory maternity leave, the protected pregnancy period concludes at the end of maternity leave. In the event of a miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy, the protected period ends two weeks after the miscarriage. Following 24 weeks of pregnancy, if the employee experiences a stillbirth, she is still entitled to take maternity leave.

Maternity Leave

The extended protection period will end 18 months after the expected week of the due date unless the employee gives the employer the child’s date of birth (before returning from maternity leave). If they do, the employee will have 18 months’ redundancy protection after that date. So, if an employee takes the entire 12 months of their maternity leave, they will get a further six months’ protection when they go back to work. This period encompasses any time spent on maternity leave or other statutory leave.

Shared Parental Leave

The extension is only valid if the employee has used at least six continuous weeks of shared parental leave. However, if your employees have taken maternity or adoption leave first, they are entitled to the “protected period” associated with the original maternity or adoption leave when they go on shared parental leave — as opposed to an additional extension for subsequent shared parental leave.

Adoption Leave

The extended protected period ends 18 months after the child’s placement for adoption or their arrival in the UK (in the case of overseas adoptions).

Changes to Flexible Working

The demands of childcare on new and expectant mothers can mean that traditional working hours can clash with their new responsibilities. From 6 April 2024, new parents and all other employees will have the right to make two flexible work requests per year. Employees will no longer need to have had 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer in order to make a flexible working request, with a new right to make a flexible working request from day 1 of employment.

Employers must consider these requests on a case-by-case basis and consult with the employee before denying a request.

Further changes to Flexible Working coming into force on 6 April 2024 include:

  • A Reduction in formalities surrounding the making of a flexible working request;
  • An employer will not be permitted to refuse a flexible working request unless that employee has been consulted; and
  • The time for an employer to make a decision will be reduced from three months to two months (although it will remain open for the parties to agree to a longer period).

Carer’s Leave Act

While it covers a broader scope than just parents, the Carer’s Leave Act will offer a degree of flexibility to unpaid carers, including parents with older children who are past the point of qualifying for maternity leave. From 6 April 2024, the Act ensures all employees have the statutory right to one week’s unpaid leave to care for a child, spouse, civil partner, parent, or anyone else who depends on the employee for care.

This will be a “day one” right, with no minimum service period at a job needed to qualify. The leave days taken do not need to be consecutive, and employers who unreasonably postpone or attempt to prevent employees from taking it could be subject to an employment tribunal. Under the Act, a carer is considered a protected employee and redundancy or dismissal due to taking carer’s leave will be considered automatically unfair dismissal.

While both women and men are unpaid carers in the UK, women provide the most unpaid care across most age groups and shoulder over 75% of unpaid care duties globally. This Act is a step towards recognising their sacrifice and offering more flexibility to care for their dependants without risking their employment.

Preventing Sexual Harassment

From 24 October 2024, the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Act 2023 will give employees a fair process for recourse for sexual harassment at work and present new responsibilities for employers to protect their staff. This shift in legislative focus marks a transition from a reactive stance to a proactive one. Under the Act, employers must take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment at work.

Additionally, employment tribunals are now empowered to increase compensation for sexual harassment by up to 25% if an employer is found to have breached this duty. This potential uplift is noteworthy, considering that in severe cases, compensation for sexual harassment can surpass £50,000.

While both women and men can be victims of sexual harassment, the majority of victims are women, with approximately one-third of UK women surveyed in 2022 saying that it has impacted their careers. By encouraging preventative measures and creating a clearer path to recourse and steeper penalties for noncompliance, this Act represents a tangible step towards women enjoying the basic right to feel safe in their workplace.

How Redkite Solicitors Can Help

At Redkite Solicitors, we understand that these further regulations might confuse many employers as you implement these new policies and processes. Should you decide to seek legal advice, we are here to help you understand this legislation and ensure your business is compliant.

We are also here to help employees and urge them to seek advice to help them understand their rights and responsibilities in light of these changes. As the law catches up to the realities of being a woman in the modern workplace, we at Redkite Solicitors stand for progress and support women’s well-being at work and in every other area of their lives.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.