July 20, 2023
It’s increasingly important for employers to have family-friendly employee benefits and policies to support recruitment and retention. These need to recognise the diverse needs and responsibilities of employees today and enable them to effectively balance their work and family life. Now to support employees and give them more protection in law three new ground-breaking employment laws will transform the employee benefit landscape.
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 all received Royal Assent and passed into law and will provide employees with unprecedented support in different caregiving and family-related situations. These new laws are expected to come into effect next year, however, employers are advised to start gearing up now for the potential changes ahead which will have a significant impact on their future workforce. These progressive laws are a highly positive step forward for employees and will go some way towards modernising businesses.
They could also encourage businesses to review their existing benefits and policies and make adjustments to further enhance their offering if they are found lacking. The following Acts passed into law:
The Carer’s Leave Act
The Carer’s Leave Bill, brought forward last year by Wendy Chamberlain MP, gained Royal Assent on 24th May 2023, 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 wellbeing.
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act also became law on the same day. This will create a new day-one right for eligible employed parents whose new-born baby is admitted to neonatal care to take up to 12 weeks of leave – 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.
These three Acts represent some major changes and it’s important for employers to get on the front foot and familiarise themselves with these new laws. Employees will have the right to raise claims to an employment tribunal if they believe their employer has failed to provide the rights outlined in these laws, something employers can avoid by ensuring they understand and adhere to the 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.
Communicating the changes to employees is key to make them aware of their new rights. Now is the ideal time to start communicating the positive benefits for employees and in doing so demonstrating their commitment to employee wellbeing.
These new laws are ground-breaking and employees who find themselves in any of these situations will benefit enormously. From a business perspective too, employers could build on what is set out in law and potentially offer enhanced support in these areas.
When companies communicate these changes, there is also the opportunity to remind people about other benefits provided by the business such as flexible working, parental leave and protection benefits that support employees and their families. Being prepared for the new family-friendly employment laws is essential but can also be advantageous for employers to show how they care for their workforce.