The Employment Bill omitted – which was initially announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2019 – would look to establish a new single enforcement body for employment rights, introduce a statutory right to flexible working, provide measures for ensuring workers keep their tips, further rights for carers and neonatal leave and perhaps most notably, enhanced redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers.
Under current legislation, before an employer makes an employee on maternity leave redundant, they must offer her a suitable alternative vacancy where possible. Failure to do so results in an automatic unfair dismissal.
The employment bill intends to extend the period for which the right is available so that it therefore applies from the point at which an employee notifies her employer of her pregnancy until six months after the end of the period of maternity leave.
Carers would see a new right of one week of unpaid leave per year introduced. This right would be available to any unpaid carers who look after a dependent with a disability or long-term illness and would be available from day one of their employment.
They would also be able to self-certify their entitlement to the leave. Exercising their right to this would be protected from dismissal as a result as this would then qualify as an automatically unfair dismissal.
Parents of premature or sick babies up to twenty eight days old and who require neonatal care, would be entitled to neonatal leave and pay. This right would apply for up to twelve weeks (dependant on the duration of the hospital stay, which must be for at least a period of seven consecutive days).
Entitlement will be a day one right but pay for this would only be available to those parents who satisfy the continuity of service and minimum earning tests that are applicable to other types of family leave. These employees will also be entitled to protection from discrimination that may arise from taking this leave.
With regards to flexible working, possible changes to be implement included making amendments to the list of reasons for rejection of a request for this, allowing an employee to make multiple requests in a twelve month period and making flexible working a day one right, rather than requiring a minimum of twenty six weeks’ service.
The omission of the bill from this year’s Queen’s Speech means that employers and employees will now be forced to wait even longer for the government to address the above matters and, undoubtedly, many further legal issues will arise.
Working life has been irreversibly altered over the past two years and clearly, legislation needs a refresh to align with the current climate. Unfortunately, until the government decides to treat this as a priority to provide further clarity, both employees and employers will be left in limbo as to the schedule changes to these topics.
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Meet the author
Daryl Ross Smith joined Oakwood Solicitors as a Paralegal in October 2018. Daryl finished his degree in Forensic Science at Northumbria University, before completing the GDL and the LPC LLM at the Uni…
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