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New employment law protections for parents and unpaid carers

As of last week, the Government has confirmed new employment law protections for parents and unpaid carers in the form of three government-backed Private Members Bills: The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act; the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act; and the Carer’s Leave Act.

Commencement dates for these Acts are yet to be confirmed but according to Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake, they represent the Government’s ongoing commitment to “protecting and enhancing workers’ rights whilst supporting businesses”.

So what exactly can we expect from the new legislation?

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act was introduced by Stuart C. McDonald MP to ensure that “parents of premature babies are able to be present to care for their babies, on and after being on neonatal units, without suffering financial hardship”.

Once in force, the Act will ensure that eligible parents whose new-born is admitted to neonatal care will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave on top of their existing Maternity/Paternity Leave entitlements; one of the most progressive statutory entitlements in the world. We expect the Government to be able to deliver the leave and pay entitlements around April 2025.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act

A 2015 report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that around 11% of mothers were either dismissed; made redundant; or subject to such poor treatment at work that they felt compelled to leave their jobs.
The new Act will allow for existing redundancy protections for employees on Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, or Shared Parental Leave to be extended to cover the employee’s pregnancy and “a period of time” following the new parents’ return to work. The Government had previously pledged to extend the redundancy protections for those employees to a further six months after the leave has finished.

The Carer’s Leave Act

Finally, in a move widely celebrated by charities and carers alike, the Government has announced its intention create an unpaid leave entitlement of up to five days for employees who are carers for dependents with long-term care needs.

The hope is that this will help support the millions of unpaid carers across the UK and allow them to continue to undertake their caring responsibilities while remaining in employment. However, an official date for implementation of the Act is still to be announced and it would be surprising if this happens before April 2024.

Overall, the new legislation represents a step-forward in employment law that is both commercially sensible and empathetic to the needs of the most vulnerable members of the workforce but the process of getting to this stage has been long and drawn out, perhaps due to the coronavirus pandemic or the ill-fated Employment Law Bill.

Our Employment Law team are on hand to assist you in approaching these changes and all other HR and Employment Law issues – please do get in touch to discuss your requirements.