Three new pieces of legislation joined the statute book on 25 May, having started life as Private Member’s Bills. Between them they are set to improve the protection of pregnant mothers and new parents against being made redundant and introduce neonatal care and carer’s leave. All three Acts create a framework for these new rights, leaving the finer details to be filled in by regulations that are yet to be published.
Enhanced redundancy rights for mothers and new parents
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act will extend the enhanced protection against being made redundant, which is currently only available to parents on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. Under the new regime introduced by the Act, this protection will be extended to mothers from the point they tell their employer they are pregnant, and for a defined period after new parents return from certain types of statutory leave.
Regulations will set out the length of this protected period. The Government currently envisages that this will run for 18 months from the start of maternity leave, and will also apply to parents returning from shared parental leave and adoption leave.
The Government has said the necessary regulations will be laid before Parliament “in due course”. It is thought that these new rights are unlikely to come into effect before April 2024.
Neonatal care leave and pay
The new regime established by the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act is likely to be more complex to implement than the changes to redundancy protection outlined above. The Government has recently said that seven new statutory instruments will be required, and that it expects to implement this new regime in April 2025.
There is a considerable amount of detail still to be resolved, but the overall intention is that a parent whose child is admitted to neonatal care (within 28 days from the day after birth) will have a new statutory right, from the outset of their employment, to take neonatal care leave. The maximum length of the leave and the eligibility conditions will be set out in the regulations. However, the Government has previously indicated that the maximum period of leave will be set at 12 weeks.
In addition, parents taking neonatal care leave who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service will be entitled to neonatal care pay, subject to eligibility conditions which are likely to be similar to other types of statutory pay. It is thought neonatal care pay will be calculated at the normal flat rate for statutory pay, rather than the enhanced rate that applies to the first six weeks of statutory maternity pay.
Since neonatal care leave can be taken within 68 weeks of birth, and statutory maternity leave will normally have started when a child is admitted into neonatal care, it is likely that the typical pattern will involve adding neonatal care leave to the end of statutory maternity leave, though other permutations will no doubt be provided for in the regulations.
The Carer’s Leave Act creates a new “day one” right to unpaid leave to provide or arrange care for a dependent with a long-term care need. The leave will be available to take in increments of half-days or individual days, totaling up to a week in each year of employment.
For these purposes “dependent” has been given a broad definition and is likely to extend to anyone to whom the employee provides care on a long-term basis. It is to be distinguished from dependent's leave, which is designed for emergencies only, and parental leave, which is is available only for children. It will therefore provide a modest amount of additional flexibility for employees who are carers of adult dependents.
As with the two other Acts discussed in this post, regulations will be required to implement the Carer’s Leave Act. It is however the simplest of the three to implement, so it is reasonable to assume the new rights will be in place by April 2024.
We will continue to monitor the implementation of these Acts, as well as keeping an eye on the progress of a number of other employment-related Private Member’s Bills which are still progressing through Parliament. You can keep up with these developments on our tracker which will be updated regularly.
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