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Important Employment Law Changes

In July 2019, the UK Government’s‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families’ looked at 3 areas:

Statutory Neonatal Leave and Pay

This was outlined in the Conservative Party Manifesto of 2019 with the commitment ‘We will legislate to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care’. Via a Private Member’s Bill from Stuart C McDonald of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 does legislate for this to happen, possibly from April 2025.

Work-Life Balances and Flexible Working

The first part was a requirement for employers to make public employer parental leave policies to ensure there is transparency on work-life balances. Even though there was support for this measure, the flexible working consultation in 2021 concluded ‘Covid-19 has meant that we have not pursued these proposals as quickly as may otherwise have been the case’. This does not mean that the requirement has disappeared, merely it has been delayed.

The second part was regarding the right to request flexible working from day 1 – the right to request does not mean it is automatically granted. This was also a Conservative Party Manifesto commitment which said ‘We will encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to’.

Via a Private Member’s Bill from Yasmin Qureshi of the Labour Party, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Billlegislates for this to happen and the Bill is awaiting Royal Assent.

Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay

The same Manifesto said ‘We will look at ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave’. On 29 June 2023, the UK Government finally published its response to the July 2019 consultation regarding Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay (SPL/ P). Reference to ‘fathers’ need to include partners, as the responses document includes leave and pay in both birth and adoption cases.

In the section ‘Paternity Leave and Pay – Policy Response’, the UK Government has confirmed that employment law legislation in Great Britain will be amended to:

– Allow SPL / P to be taken in two separate blocks of one week rather (as opposed to the strict one or two blocks now)
– Allow these blocks to be taken in the first 52 weeks of the birth/placement of a child (as opposed to the 56 day rule that applies now)
– Require a notification of entitlement by employees 15 weeks before the birth/placement (rather than notification of the leave dates) and
– Allow eligible employees to give only 28 days notice to the employer of their leave dates

This is an important responses document and will mean changes to the way that employers work and payroll software will facilitate the leave and pay entitlement. This is to say nothing of the need for employers to update policies and procedures.

(Note that the responses document also covers Maternity Leave and Pay / Allowance, Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay and Unpaid Parental Leave. There are no changes to any of these.)

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