Government backs new Bills to enhance workers’ rights

Throughout July, the government gave its backing to the introduction of two new Private Members Bills, which both aim to enhance workers’ rights. The absence of the Employment Bill from this year’s Queen’s Speech led many to believe that such rights were not on the government’s priority list, so would not be given any attention. But, by taking the more unusual route of a Private Members Bill, two new measures are set to come into force: the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill and the Employment (Allocation of Tips Bill).

Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill

This Bill will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to other leave entitlements, such as maternity and paternity leave, so that they can spend more time with their baby whilst they receive neonatal treatment.

Once in law, Neonatal Leave will be available to employees from the first day of employment and will apply to parents of babies who are admitted into hospital up to the age of 28 days, and who have a continuous stay in hospital of 7 full days or more.

Parents may be able to receive Statutory Neonatal Pay if they meet certain conditions regarding continuity of service and minimum earnings. In line with similar tests which are already in place for other statutory family-related pay (e.g. maternity, paternity, adoption), employees must have worked for at least 26 weeks’ and earn above £123 per week. It is expected that the rate of Neonatal Pay will be the same as other statutory payments – currently £156.66 per week.

The Bill’s explanatory notes outline that Statutory Neonatal Leave and Pay won’t come into force until 2024 at the earliest, with the potential for it to be 2025. This is due to HM Revenue and Customs, and other commercial payroll systems, needing around 18 months’ notice to implement changes that involve the administration of statutory payments. The 18-month period will begin once the Bill becomes law, which will unlikely be passed before mid-2023. As such, employers will have plenty of notice to prepare and introduce any necessary policies or training to staff.

Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill

This Bill will ensure that all tips go to staff by making it unlawful for businesses to hold back well-earned service charges from their employees. Through the Bill, a new statutory Code of Practice will be developed to provide businesses and staff with advice on how tips should be distributed. On top of this, workers will receive a new right to request more information relating to an employer’s tipping record, enabling them to bring forward a credible claim to an employment tribunal.

Employers in the hospitality sector, where tips are common, will likely be most impacted by this change. As such, it may be beneficial to review their current working practices and prepare to implement changes. Pro-actively providing tips to staff before the new law comes into force can help to boost employee motivation and satisfaction, which in turn contributes towards higher retention rates and improved productivity.

There is no timeframe for when this will be passed into law, but it’s unlikely to happen until next year at the earliest. The Bill is only at the second reading so there are many more parliamentary stages to go through before it comes into effect.

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