In more detail
In our article Government supports MPs proposed changes to employment law we outlined seven draft employment laws that the government was supporting. Four of them have now become law. We set out their key provisions below.
Extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and those returning from family leave
Women on maternity leave and parents on adoption or shared parental leave already have the right during their leave to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if one exists, in preference to other colleagues. Under the Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, the government now has the power to extend this period of preferential treatment to pregnancy (before maternity leave) and for a period following the parent's return to work.
The length of the protected period following a return to work will likely be six months. This is not expressly stated in the legislation but is the figure given in previous consultations and the explanatory notes to the legislation. In relation to protection during pregnancy, it is currently unclear what prior notification the employee will have had to give in order for the protection to commence.
The Act also allows pregnancy protection to be granted after pregnancy has ended. The explanatory notes state that this could give protection to a woman who suffers a miscarriage before informing her employer of the pregnancy. We do not yet know when these rights will come into force.
Neonatal care leave
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 introduces rights for up to 12 weeks' paid leave for employees who are responsible for children who are admitted to neonatal care at birth or within 28 days of birth. The neonatal care must last without interruption for at least seven days.
There is no length of service requirement to be entitled to the leave. However, the right to neonatal pay will only be available for employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous service at the date of the leave and who earn at least the lower earnings limit (currently GBP 123 per week). The Act states that the period of leave will be at least one week, but when read with the provisions on pay as well as government announcements, it seems clear that it will be up to 12 weeks. Much of the detail of these new entitlements will be left to later regulations. However, it is likely that the rate of pay will be capped, as is the case with other forms of family leave. In addition, employees taking neonatal leave will likely have the same employment protections as other forms of family-related leave, including protection from dismissal or detriment for having taken or asked to take time off.
Government statements in Parliament indicate that this new right will come into force in 2025.
Unpaid carer's leave
The Carer's Leave Act 2023 gives all employees who provide care to dependents with a long-term care need a right to take up to one week's unpaid leave each year. A dependent can include family, other members of a household (not including employees of the household, boarders, tenants or lodgers) or anyone else who reasonably relies on the employee to provide care. There is no length of service requirement.
Many details of the right will be confirmed in regulations but it is likely that employees will not need to provide evidence of how the leave is used or for whom the care is provided. In addition, as with neonatal leave, employees taking carer's leave will have the same employment protections as other forms of family-related leave, including protection from dismissal or detriment for having taken or asked to take time off. It is anticipated that this right will come into force in 2024.
Allocation of tips
The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 ensures that customers' tips, gratuities and other service charges are allocated to workers in full, without deductions, by the end of the following month. A new statutory Code of Practice is to be developed to provide businesses and staff with advice on how tips should be distributed. Workers will also have a new right to request information on an employer's tipping record so that they have the information they need to bring a tribunal claim.
In relation to the other three measures we previously wrote about, the proposed changes to the right to request flexible working are still working their way through Parliament, as are the proposals to give a right to request a predictable working pattern. However, it is reported that the proposed protection of employees from third-party harassment may have lost government support.