New Acts to take effect in 2024
A wave of legislative changes swept through the realm of employment law, as three pivotal bills were granted royal assent, poised to revolutionise HR practices and empower working parents. The Carer’s Leave Act, Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act, and Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act are slated to take effect in 2024.
These forthcoming laws demand early preparation from employers in England, Scotland, and Wales, as they bring profound transformations to the landscape of employment. Kate Palmer, HR Advice & Consultancy Director at Peninsula, delves into the imminent changes and their implications for businesses:
The Carer’s Leave Act: This legislation introduces a groundbreaking entitlement of one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees responsible for the care of dependents with long-term care needs. From the very first day of employment, eligible employees can exercise this right without the need for extensive evidence, only requiring self-certification. This leave can be utilised for various forms of caregiving, ranging from accompanying individuals to medical appointments to offering financial assistance. While there are no limitations on how the leave can be employed, the customary criteria for defining “dependents” will still apply. The purpose of this law is to streamline the process for both businesses and employees, fostering a more seamless experience.
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act: Under this legislation, parents of babies admitted to the hospital within the first 28 days of their lives will enjoy Neonatal Leave and Pay if the hospital stay surpasses seven consecutive days. A maximum of 12 weeks of leave can be availed, to be taken as a continuous block at the culmination of maternity or paternity leave. The government is yet to finalise the intricacies of how this new entitlement will interact with shared parental leave. Neonatal pay, which is subject to 26 weeks of service and surpassing the lower earnings limit (currently set at £123 per week), will be provided by statute. While a notice will be required, informal short notices will be permissible for leaves initiated soon after hospital admission. In cases where the leave begins before recent admission, one week’s notice will be anticipated.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act: This act amplifies the current safeguards extended to employees on maternity leave during redundancy scenarios. Presently, when companies face redundancy situations, they are obliged to offer suitable alternative positions to employees on maternity leave, provided one exists. With the introduction of this act, the same protection will be accorded to individuals on adoption or shared parental leave. Furthermore, the safeguarding will commence from the moment an employee informs their employer of their pregnancy, be it verbally or in writing, and endure for 18 months following the birth.
“Regulations pertaining to each of these laws will be issued prior to their implementation. Though this is expected to occur next year, it is imperative for businesses to begin preparing now. These changes are momentous, necessitating employers to familiarise themselves with the intricacies, effectively communicate the information to their employees regarding their impending rights, and establish processes to ensure compliance once the laws take effect,” advises Kate Palmer.
“Should eligible employees find themselves deprived of the rights enshrined in these new laws, they will have the option to file claims with the employment tribunal. Similarly, if an employee faces discrimination or dismissal due to availing leave granted by these new laws, they may also pursue legal recourse,” she further clarifies.