Employment Protection For Families In 2023
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Laura Spence
Currently, the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides protection of redundancy for workers on maternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave. Before making a woman on maternity leave redundant, an employer must offer her suitable alternative employment. Failure to do so may result in the redundancy being automatically unfair or a discrimination claim.
The current position undoubtedly offers useful protection to women on maternity leave but has received criticism for neglecting women once they return to work. Concerns specifically include that in a bid to avoid tribunal claims, employers will wait until the employee returns to work to implement redundancies. Further, facing the challenges of a becoming a parent and returning to work after a long period of absence is likely to interfere with an employee’s performance and commitment to their role in the short-term.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill seeks to provide protection to expectant employees from the moment they inform their employer of their pregnancy until 18 months after the birth of their child. Similarly, parents taking adoption leave or shared parental leave will receive the same 18 months of protection. At this point it seems that verbal notification is all that is required for the employee to exercise this right therefore, to avoid any ambiguity as to when the clock starts, a note should be made.
The Bill has been well received by the public, supporting women in the labour market generally and specifically at a time when they may feel particularly vulnerable.
What about when pregnancy and childbirth do not go smoothly?
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill, if enacted, will provide significant support to parents that give birth prematurely or whose babies are born with health concerns and, as a result, spend long periods of time in hospital after birth. The Bill provides that in these circumstances, parents will receive an additional 12 weeks’ of paid leave to their usual maternity/paternity entitlement.
The legislation will support employees through very distressing times, taking the worry of returning to work away and providing some financial support.
The demand for carers leave
Currently, approximately 2 million people provide unpaid care to dependants in the UK. In order to maintain their careers, workers often have to exhaust other types of leave to be able to provide such care. In some circumstances, many people have no choice but to give up their jobs.
The Carers Leave Bill, which is set to come into force this year, will allow those with caring responsibilities to take up to 1 week of unpaid leave a year to provide care to dependants. Commentary on the Bill has suggested that this could be extended to up to 2 weeks’ paid leave in the future. The protection will be available to all employees from day 1 of their employment and anyone who suffers a detriment or a dismissal as a result of taking this time off will be protected.
This notably recognises the personal challenges that many face outside of work, providing job security to many individuals who have caring commitments. The additional flexibility may also reduce the loss of valued staff as a result of such circumstances.
For further information on the content discussed within this article, or anything else, please contact a member of the Employment team and we would be happy to assist.