Karen Holden from A City Law Firm outlines the main legislative changes affecting working mums this year.
There are lots of legal change coming in 2023 for employers and employees. The extension of rights for pregnant women and those with babies in neonatal care are a couple of significant changes. Employers and employees will be impacted by the many changes and both should be sure they are familiar with these new rights. Employers in particular need to consider their staff handbooks and policies which may need updating and HR training provided.
The four key ones related to working mums to watch for are as follows:
Brexit and its accompanying legal changes will be extended to areas of employment legislation. Getting rid of laws that we have taken for granted will result if this Bill is passed. September 2022 saw the Bill introduced with the aim of revoking EU-based legislation by December 2023. So UK law will take precedence or new laws will be enacted. This creates uncertainty at present.
In the event that this Bill is passed the effect will be to remove the following:
The potential repeal of these areas of current employment law could leave employees vulnerable, pending new yet to be announced statutory protections. Whether there will be consistency between UK staff and European staff working for the same company will be an interesting consideration. The impact could be far-reaching so this Bill is one to keep an eye on, particularly for those in part-time positions.
It may be the case that the replacements will be the current legislation in the above areas, but as yet that is not known.
This Bill was passed on a Second Reading on 21st October 2022. Currently the Employment Rights Act 1996 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding redundancies during periods of maternity leave, adoption or shared parental leave. This Bill would amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 and increase protection against redundancy, during or after an individual takes leave.
The current position means that an individual on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, can be made redundant, but employers have an obligation to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists. The new Bill increases the protection for longer periods of time.
The new Bill intends to increase this for an expanded period covering the period from when a woman tells her employer she is pregnant until 18 months after the birth. The 18-month window ensures that a mother returning from a year of maternity leave can receive six months’ additional redundancy protection. The 18-month window will also apply to Maternity Leave and Shared Parental Leave. This will be a welcome change for those returning from these types of leave.
This Bill received government backing in July 2022 and is designed to allow parents whose babies need hospital neonatal care to take 12 weeks paid leave in addition to their statutory maternity or paternity leave.
There is no required length of service for this right and it will be available from day one of employment. It will also apply to parents whose babies are admitted to hospital up to the age of 28 days and have a hospital stay of over seven days of more.
This includes support for employees who are affected by medical issues when their children are born early and compensation for any time ‘lost’ in such situations.
The Carer’s Leave Bill makes provision for one week’s unpaid leave for providing or arranging care for a dependent with a long-term care need. There is no required length of service for this right to be exercised. The definition of dependent reflects existing leave entitlement provisions and “long-term care need” is defined as:
Interestingly, those who take carer’s leave will not need to provide evidence to their employer of how the leave is used or who it is used for. Eligible employees will be able to take leave in different patterns, for example, increments of half or full days, up to a total of five working days over a 12-month period. The idea is to assist those employees who have family care responsibilities which predominantly seems to be working women.
There are several legislative changes coming this year, but the above are the ones in our opinion that are most likely to have a significant effect on working mums and their employers. Policies will need to be amended and potentially initiated, for example, with carer’s leave. The basis of these changes for the most part appears to be a culture of understanding in the workplace, which, with clear policies in place, should foster a relationship of mutual trust and confidence for both employees and employers.
*Karen Holden is founder of A City Law Firm.