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Is your business ready for the new family-friendly employment laws?

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Three new ground-breaking laws are set to transform employee benefits and protection. On 24th May, The Carer’s Leave Act, The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act, and The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act received Royal Assent and passed into law and will provide employees with unprecedented support in different caregiving and family-related situations.

The laws are expected to come into effect next year and the government plans to lay down secondary legislation “in due course” to guide employers, however, businesses should be gearing up for the potential changes which will have a significant impact on their future workforce.

These new progressive laws are a highly positive step forward for employees and will go some way towards modernising businesses. As these are some major changes, it will be important for employers to get on the front foot and familiarise themselves with the new laws. They will also need to communicate the changes to employees and make them aware of their new rights from a business perspective, it will be vital to establish processes to ensure compliance once the laws are in force and ensure there are systems in place to track these new kinds of leave and enable managers and HR professionals to plan their resources effectively to cover extra periods of absence.

The details of the Acts are as follows:

The Carer’s Leave Act

On 24 May 2023, the Carer’s Leave Bill, brought forward last year by Wendy Chamberlain MP, gained Royal Assent and became the Carer’s Leave Act meaning it will now become law. It will allow employees who care for a spouse, civil partner, child, parent or other dependent (who needs at least 3 months of care due to an illness, injury, disability or old age) time off to attend to their caring responsibilities. Under this Bill, employees would also have protection from dismissal or detriment as a result of having taken time off.  This leave would apply to employees from day one of employment. The leave could be taken flexibly in a block of five days or in individual or half-days to suit the carer’s caring responsibilities. Employees will be required to self-certify their eligibility for carer’s leave. This will help carers juggle work and care whilst supporting employers to maximise retention and well-being.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act also become law on 24 May 2023. This will create a new day-one right for eligible employed parents whose newborn baby is admitted to neonatal care to take up to 12 weeks of leave. This is in addition to other relevant leave entitlements, such as maternity and paternity leave.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act

This Act will extend the current protection afforded to employees on maternity leave during redundancy. When a company is facing a redundancy situation, employers currently need to offer those who are on maternity leave a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists, but this will also apply to those on adoption/shared parental leave when this law comes into effect. Also, the protection will apply from the point the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether verbally or in writing, and will end 18 months after the birth.

Businesses also need to note that eligible employees will have the right to raise claims to the employment tribunal if their employer fails to provide the rights outlined in these new laws. Also, if employees face disadvantages or dismissals due to taking leave granted by these acts, they retain the right to raise claims for resolution. What’s key is that businesses use this time to start planning- it is the ideal time to start communicating the positive benefits for employees and in doing so demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing. Equally, they should be thinking about how to track employee leave and resource their business in the future, to ensure they can operate seamlessly.

By Adrian Lewis, Director of Activ People HR, a specialist in absence management

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