Employment Legislation Changes: What Employers Need To Know
There are three employment legislation changes that we are expecting to take place in the year ahead. These changes will affect family friendly provisions in the workplace. Three key changes have been announced by the government which will be the…
Blog23rd Aug 2023
There are three employment legislation changes that we are expecting to take place in the year ahead. These changes will affect family friendly provisions in the workplace.
Three key changes have been announced by the government which will be the most significant developments to family friendly legislation since 2015 – flexible working rights will be getting a shake up, along with the introduction of carers’ leave and extended redundancy protections for pregnant and new mothers. It is anticipated they will become effective for employers in the year ahead, and the below sets out what employers need to know at this stage about the upcoming changes.
Redundancy Protections During Pregnancy & Maternity Leave
It is well understood by employers that employees expecting a baby, or those on or returning from maternity leave, are already the most protected category of workers in employment law. However, these new proposals will broaden the rights of expectant and new mothers a step further by extending the period of protection for redundancy from the point of an employee informing their employer they are pregnant until 18 months after the birth of their child. What this means in practice is that in redundancy situations pregnant women and expectant mothers will have the right to be offered suitable alternative employment for a longer period. It does not mean that this group of workers will be immune from redundancy, but essentially there will be additional protections from pregnancy, right through to a child reaching 1 and a half years old.
Carers’ Leave Introduction
Carers currently have very limited rights under what is known as Time Off For Care Of Dependents providing ‘reasonable’ unpaid time off. The proposed legislation would be much more prescriptive giving the right for unpaid carers to take up to one week (five working days) of unpaid leave per year. Like the changes to flexible working outlined below, it is anticipated this would be a right regardless of length of service. Employees will not be required to give evidence of the request for leave, and employers will not be able refuse requests, but they will be able to delay requests on limited grounds. It is expected employees will be able to choose to take leave in a flexible way such as single days, half days, or a full week.
Flexible Working Changes
Probably the most wide reaching of the three proposals is the reforms to flexible working, and the changes proposed are a significant shift from the status quo:
Employees will no longer have to justify the effect of their request for the employer, and how the change might be dealt with;
- Rejecting a flexible working request will require consultation by the employer;
- Employees will be able to make two flexible working applications per annum rather than the current right to one application; and
- Decisions on the outcome of a flexible working request will require to be made within 2 months as opposed to the current 3 months.
Impact of Changes
Whilst these are the most significant changes to family friendly legislation we have seen in nearly a decade, even collectively, the impact for working families is likely to minimal. However, they are definite progress – the fact that the government are implementing several new pieces of legislation to give enhanced rights and protections for those with caring responsibilities are a step in the right direction. For employees, the new legislation will give that little bit more protection and confidence in making requests to support their family. For employers, although many have become far more flexible than ever, the introduction of additional laws will serve as clarity on what is expected. Further updates are expected in due course to firm up the details and specific dates of when these laws will become effective in practice.
Furthermore, whilst the upcoming changes are somewhat limited in reach, these three initial reforms are likely to be a catalyst for further change coming down the track in mandating employers to improve their family friendly support to their staff. There is already further provision anticipated with statutory neo-natal leave and pay already approved and also set to be brought into effect over the next year or so. It’s clear that further reform in this area can be expected so watch this space.
Our specialist HR & Employment Law team are here to support you. If you have any questions about the employment legislation changes please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of the team