The Government Backing Bills to Grant Rights to Leave and Better Protection for Pregnant Women
The Government has backed two more Private Members’ Bills giving employees protection against redundancy if they are pregnant or returning from other family related leave and a right to one week’s unpaid carer’s leave. This comes after government support of the Neonatal care leave Bill in July.
The Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Bill
Under current rules, before offering redundancy to an employee on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave, employers have an obligation to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists. So, this obligation only exists whilst the individual is on leave.
The Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Bill will extend redundancy protection to pregnant women as well as new parents returning to work from a relevant form of leave. Consequently, the new protection would mean the obligation would extend to individuals returning to work.
At this stage, the legislation gives the government the power to extend the circumstances in which an employer must offer an employee suitable alternative employment if it is available. On this basis, there is no indication of when the protection will come into force.
The Carer’s Leave Bill
Employees currently providing unpaid care to dependant family members or friends will be entitled to unpaid leave under new laws backed by the government on 21 October 2022.
The Carer’s Leave Bill will introduce a new entitlement of one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care.
Under the new legislation Carer’s Leave will be available to eligible employees from the first day of their employment.
If the Carer’s Leave Bill is passed, it is expected that the new right will come into force in 2024.
Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill
The government backed the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill on 15 July 2022 which will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave during any period that a child remains in Neonatal care.
Neonatal care leave will be available to employees from their first day in a new job 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.
With the bill now likely to become law in 2023, the legislation should come into force sometime in 2024 or 2025.
A Change of Tack From the Government?
The above changes are of interest, mainly due to the expectancy that a new Employment Bill was expected sometime in 2022 and included several new family-friendly rights. Some may recall that we discussed the Employment Bill in a blog earlier this year. The Bill was absent from the Queen’s Speech in May 2021 and seemingly shelved as the government said the bill would be forthcoming “when parliamentary time allows”.
It seems now that many of the rights expected in the Employment Bill of this year are being enacted through the support of Private Members Bills.
This may then see the end to the expected Employment Bill but rather the anticipated reforms are being enacted through different means.
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Employment & Litigation Solicitor