The legal landscape around family-related employment protection is currently going through a considerable amount of positive change. Businesses will need to be aware of these changes, as some (in particular the additional protection against redundancy for employees returning from maternity leave) may impact on future strategic and management decisions. As always, there is a need to ensure employees are treated fairly. It will be necessary, once these laws are in force, to consider updating any policies and procedures relating to these areas considered below. By being aware of these laws now, it will allow companies to be well equipped and pre-empt any alterations they need to make to their practices.
The Bills relating to the below Acts of Parliament received royal assent on 24 May 2023 (meaning they will become law).
This law will allow parents whose babies have been born prematurely or sick (and therefore receiving neonatal care in a hospital) to take up to 12 weeks’ paid leave. The 12 weeks’ paid leave will be additional to any statutory entitlements (e.g. maternity or paternity leave).
This entitlement will be a first day right, and available in circumstances where the baby has been admitted into hospital within 28 days of birth, and have been in the hospital for at least 7 days.
Many people across the country provide unpaid care, and this law will help provide some additional support when needed. This law will allow carers to take 1 week unpaid leave from day one of employment. Importantly, it will also ensure that carers benefit from similar employment protection as other family-related rights, such as protection from dismissal or detriment relating to any care-related leave.
This law allows greater protection for employees from being made redundant when they return to work following maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave. Employers will need to offer suitable alternative employment (where a vacancy is available with the employer or an associated employer) following this leave, with an additional protection of 6 months (resulting in a protected period of 18 months after birth). Employees will be protected from when they tell their employer about the pregnancy.
The Centre for Progressive Policy, Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS) and Women in Data published a report on 15 June 2023 calling for the increase of paternity leave to at least 6 weeks, paid at 90% of the employee’s pay. It will be interesting to see the Government’s response to this report and whether paternity leave will be brought more in line with maternity leave.
For more information, please contact Hayley Marles.