Introducing more ‘family friendly’ legislation has been in the pipeline for some time now, with several proposals being ‘stalled’ by the Pandemic. However, in 2023 it is likely that new legislation, some of which are still being debated at the House of Commons, will in fact be made law. Within this article we take a look at 3 new proposals which we believe will make significant progress this year, and may even make it into new legislation.
Day One Flexible Working
The Government launched a public consultation on ‘making flexible working the default’. The consultation set out proposals to amend the right to request flexible working so that it might better support employers and employees to reach agreement about appropriate flexible working arrangements.
In December 2022, the Government published its response to the consultation. Whilst acknowledging that primary legislation will be needed the response was positive, and it is very likely that this will be enacted in 2023.
In a nutshell, the response was that the right to request flexible working will become a right from day one, whereas presently, an employee is required to have 26 weeks’ continuous service before acquiring the right. The Government response emphasised that it is a right to make a ‘request’ from day one, and not a right to work flexibly.
Also, in the response was that employees could make 2 requests to work flexibly within a 12-month period (currently only one allowed) and the response to such requests would need to be actioned within 2 months (currently 3).
Our advice has always been for employers to be open to flexible working requests, and with more employers embracing hybrid working, being flexible is not only a good way to retain staff but is also a great way to attract new employees.
Carers Leave Bill
With an ageing population, care homes facing staffing shortages, and many employees providing care to relatives whilst also trying to hold down a full-time job, it is no surprise that calls have been made for help to be provided. This has materialised in the form of the Carers Leave Bill which is currently at the Report stage in the House of Commons. This is when MP’s will debate and vote on various provisions as set out in the Bill.
At present the Bill proposes to allow one week’s unpaid leave per year for any employees who are caring for or are arranging care for family (or friends). It remains to be seen whether it is curtailed to just care for family members, and whether the leave has to be taken in one block or across several days. Given its current transit through parliament, we strongly suspect this will be introduced at some point in 2023.
Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.
The proposal to enhance redundancy protection for those on or returning from Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave originated from the 2019 Queens Speech when the Government committed to extending the protection currently offered as part of the Employment Bill. However, Covid got in the way, and like many provisions announced at the time, there was a moratorium.
This Bill is also now at the report stage and was debated in the house of Commons at its second reading in October 2022. The proposed legislation has now been sent to a Public Bill Committee for further consideration on the 3rd February 2023. The Bill seeks to extend the ‘protected period of pregnancy’ with a proposal to extend redundancy protection for up to 18 months following an employee’s return to work, as well as whilst on leave.
From an Employment Law point of view, 2023 is shaping up to potentially being a busy one. We will keep you posted on any developments, and should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Employment Team.