Two new Bills get government backing
On 21 October 2022, two new Private Members Bills had a successful second reading, which resulted in the government giving its backing for them to be introduced. As the cost-of-living crisis continues to put pressure on workers, the backing of these Bills acts as a reminder to employers that employees’ rights and wellbeing remain a priority. Once passed, the Carer’s Leave Bill and the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill hope to enhance statutory entitlements and provide extra security to staff.
Carer’s Leave Bill
This Bill will entitle employees, from day one of employment, to take up to one week (5 working days) of unpaid Carer’s Leave per year. It will be available to employees for the purpose of providing or arranging care for a dependant with a long-term care need.
The leave will be available to take flexibly in periods of half-days or individual days, up to a maximum of 5 days’ in a 12-month period; leave entitlement will be reduced proportionately for employees who work less than 5 days per week.
Employees won’t have to provide evidence when making a request for Carer’s Leave but will likely have to provide notice; the regulations, when passed, should provide further details on notice period requirements. If Carer’s Leave is unreasonably postponed or the employee is precented from taking it, they may raise a claim to the employment tribunal. Similarly, if the employee is placed at a disadvantage or dismissed as a result of them taking leave, then claims may be raised.
The Bill’s explanatory notes suggest Carer’s Leave will come into effect in 2024.
Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill
This Bill extends the protection against redundancy currently afforded to employees. At the moment, employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave are entitled to be offered suitable alternative employment during redundancy situations where a vacancy exists.
However, the Bill will enable redundancy protection to be extended so it applies to pregnant women as well as new parents returning to work from a relevant form of leave. This will help shield new parents and expectant mothers from workplace discrimination, offering them greater job security at an important time in their lives.
The policy intention is that new Regulations will apply the protections through an expanded period covering from when a woman tells her employer she is pregnant until 18 months after the birth. The 18-month window ensures that a mother returning from a year of maternity leave can receive 6 months additional redundancy protection. The 18-month window will also apply to Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave.
Once approved, there will be a two-month transitional period to allow employers to prepare for and implement the changes. The process to gain Royal Ascent and be passed into legislation will likely follow a similar timeframe to the Carer’s Leave Bill, so isn’t expected to come into effect until 2024 at the earliest.