Two private members’ bills, one proposing to expand redundancy protection for new parents and the other introducing unpaid leave for those with caring responsibilities, have had their second reading in the House of Commons. They will now progress, with Government backing, to the committee stage.
Both Bills reflect long-term Government employment policy commitments, but it has not been able to find the Parliamentary time to bring them forward in a Government bill during the current session. Three other private members’ Bills on employment-related matters are currently progressing through the Commons: see our updates here (neonatal leave and tips) and here (sexual harassment).
Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill
As the law currently stands, an individual on maternity leave (or shared parental or adoption leave) takes priority in the search for suitable alternative employment if their role is to be made redundant. Failure to do so may lead to a dismissal being considered unfair.
This bill (promoted by Dan Jarvis MP) would allow regulations to be made to extend protection to those who are pregnant (or have recently been pregnant) and to those who have recently returned from a period of family leave. It seems likely that the protected period would not start until the employer has been informed of the pregnancy, but this will need to be specified in the regulations.
It is not yet clear how long after a period of family leave an individual will be protected for. However, in its consultation on this topic the Government has previously suggested a period of 6 months' protection for those returning from maternity leave (and the same may be extended to other periods of family leave).
Carer’s Leave Bill
This bill (promoted by Wendy Chamberlain MP) provides for a new right for employees to take up to a week of unpaid leave in any year in order to provide care for a dependant with a long-term care need. This right will arise on day one of employment (subject to some eligibility requirements).
The leave is intended to be used for planned and foreseen caring commitments, in contrast to the emergency leave currently available (i.e. time off for dependants). It is likely therefore that an employee will need to give some notice of their intention to take this leave.
Any employee who takes Carer’s Leave will have the same protections as arise for other forms of family-related leave (e.g. maternity, paternity or shared parental leave). This means they will be protected from dismissal or detriment as a result of having taken the leave.