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Sarah Everton from Employment Law team

Sarah Everton

Head of Employment Law

01782 525012 sarah.everton@myerssolicitors.co.uk


Upcoming Family Focused Changes in Employment Law

15th September 2023

Upcoming Family Focused Changes in Employment Law

As an employer, you will always want to do what’s best by your employees and offer your support when it’s needed. The ever-changing introductions and amendments of laws surrounding the family can be tricky to keep up with, but we are here to help keep you updated. Sarah Everton, a solicitor in our Employment team, outlines what these new bills and anticipated changes could mean for employees and for you as their employer.

It is important to note that these are forthcoming changes, as much of the detail is still unfinished and there could be further changes before these Bills become Acts and the Acts are then implemented. Despite this, it is a good time to consider what employers currently have in place and provide advice on good practice that could anticipate the changes.

Worker Protection (Amendment of The Equality Act 2010)

Whilst the Equality Act 2010 already includes protection against sexual harassment, sexual harassment still remains an issue in the workplace. This act is due to be amended, aiming to ensure increased protection from sexual harassment while maintaining a balance of freedom of expression.

As an employer, what do I need to know?

An employer has obligations to address any form of harassment in the workplace and currently must be able to show that the organisation took all reasonable steps necessary to try to prevent the harassment if they are seeking to defend a legal claim.

The proposed changes would impose a positive duty on all employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment, giving the tribunal powers to uplift compensation by 25% where employers fail to do so.

It is unlikely that the changes would be effective before 2024 but taking action to address sexual harassment should be considered before then.

What can my organisation do?

Carer’s Leave: Upcoming Changes

Carers make up 11% of the total UK workforce, 1 in every 9 employees. As an employer, it’s important to consider that some of their employees may need to provide care temporarily whilst another care giver is taking respite, or they could be full time carers. Either way, balancing the commitments of working and looking after those in their life who require long term care can be extremely challenging and support is always needed.

Under the Employment Rights Act, employees currently have a right to take time off to care for dependents, but this is usually in the form of unplanned leave due to an emergency or unforeseen illness. The Carer’s Leave Act is expected to be rolled out in 2024 which amends this Act, giving employees a new leave right for planned events.

As an employer, what do I need to know?

What are my next steps?

As an employer, you will need to consider creating or updating policies to inform employees of the new right and provide information on how they can request and take this leave. As there is no requirement for an employee to provide evidence to be entitled to this leave, it may be beneficial for employers to provide employees with a form to complete, declaring that they meet the legal definition of a carer and will be using the leave in that capacity.

Redundancy Protection for Pregnancy and Family Leave

Employees on maternity leave or adoption leave have priority over any other employees who are also at risk of redundancy. This means that if a redundancy situation happens, those who are on maternity or adoption leave will be selected first for an alternative vacancy where one is available.  The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 which came into force on 24 July 2023 aims to provide more protection for those entitled to this leave and introduce protection for those who may have suffered a miscarriage. The changes will be refined by regulations that will make provision to implement the new redundancy protections but no date for this has yet been announced.

What will those who qualify be entitled to expect under the new law?

If you are considering introducing a family leave policy or wish to update any current redundancy procedures within your organisation, we can help. It is also important to ensure that all HR and management staff keep up to date with the changes in the event of a potential redundancy situation.

Introduction of Neonatal Care Leave and Pay

What is Neonatal Care?

New-born babies who need intensive care, due to being born prematurely or poorly, are often put in a different part of hospital called the neonatal intensive care unit. For the parents and families of these babies, it can be an extremely distressing time. Even if parents are aware in advance of underlying issues, most expect to be able to take their new-born home with them, and it can come as a shock to learn that their baby will need to stay in hospital, especially in intensive care.

With a baby poorly in hospital, stress levels and emotions will already be running high, and the current inflexibility of the parental leave system means that this traumatic experience is only exacerbated for parents and families. The aim of introducing this Act is to ease the pressures on families whose children require neonatal care, ensuring they aren’t forced to continue working or take unpaid leave.

What are the changes?

Support as an employer

It is unknown exactly what the requirements will be for employees giving notice for their requested neonatal leave. However, employees who are eligible will need the upmost support as they go through what is already a stressful and emotional time. This requires employers to be as understanding and considerate as possible, and to help employees navigate through a process that they probably did not expect to find themselves in.

How Can We Help?

We can provide you with the latest updates on all policies mentioned above and ensure you have the right steps and support in place within your organisation for any qualifying employees. Please contact Sarah Everton, our solicitor specialising in Employment Law today on 01782 525012 or email: sarah.everton@myerssolicitors.co.uk