Are you ready for the new wave of family and carers workplace laws?

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It’s no secret that the topic of workplace laws surrounding the rights of employees when faced with caregiving and family-related situations can be complex, and now a further three pieces of legislation have been passed into law that will provide unprecedented support for employees across the UK.

Having responsibility as a carer for a family member that’s taken ill will, and often does, place a huge amount of strain upon employees who feel pressured to balance work with their duty to their loved ones, and although there are a multitude of charities and third-party support services on hand with practical advice and a friendly ear, more needed to be done from a legal perspective to protect staff who may need to call on extended periods of leave.

Let’s take a look at the three pieces of legislation that all employers need to be aware of before the laws are bought into force in 2024.

The Carer’s Leave Act

This new bill will allow employees who care for a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or other dependent time off to attend to their caring responsibilities IF:

  • The dependant requires at least 3 months of care due to an illness, injury, disability, or old age.
  • The employee will be responsible for self-certifying the period(s) of leave.
  • The employee has already begun working for the business (law applies from day one of employment).

Rules also state that the following will apply:

  • Leave may be taken flexibly in a block of five days or in individual or half-days to be decided by the employee.
  • All employees will also have protection from dismissal or detriment as a result of having taken time off.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act

Also passed in May 2023, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act will offer protection and the ability for parents whose newborn baby is admitted to neonatal care.

Key points employers need to know:

  • Neonatal care leave is in ADDITION to all current maternity and paternity leave rights.
  • This is a day-one right for all employees.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act

As an extension of current laws relating to protection for employees on maternity leave during redundancy, the new Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act will afford new rights to employees.

This additional protection now begins from the day the employee informs her employer that she is pregnant and will cease 18 months after the birth of the child.

Another noteworthy update regarding redundancy takes the rule that employers have a legal obligation to provide those who are on maternity leave a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists a stage further as this is due to be extended to those on adoption/shared parental leave once the bill comes into force next year.

Future planning

While the date that these new rules will be enforced has yet to be officially announced, employers need to be prepared for changes in staffing levels and have appropriate resources in place to ensure that workloads are distributed to cover prolonged periods of absence and key operational objectives are met.

Failure to adhere to the new legislation will result in tribunal action, so now is the ideal time to reassess staff levels and create an extended leave action plan.

It’s also worthwhile to communicate these upcoming changes to your employees as soon as possible as this will promote employee wellbeing and reinforce the positive steps being taken to help support staff at a time when it is needed most as this will most certainly aid employee retention and lessen the load for those facing the uncertainty and emotional anxiety that having an unwell or aged loved one inevitably brings.