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Neonatal Care Bill and Protection from Redundancy Bill Receive Royal Assent

Parents and expecting parents will be gaining new employment rights as two new Bills have received Royal Assent – the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, and the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023. The government is still to draft separate regulations which would outline how these new rights would be implemented, but employers can start to consider how this would impact their internal business operations.

Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 formally comes into force on 24 July 2023, however timings on when the government would provide information around how it would work in practice is still unknown. This new Bill provides those who are pregnant or recent returners from parental leave priority status for redeployment opportunities in a redundancy situation.

Currently, those on Maternity Leave, Shared Parental Leave or Adoption Leave have protections in a redundancy situation, where they are required to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if one is available before they are made redundant. The new Bill extends this priority protection status to pregnant employees, an employee who has recently suffered a miscarriage and those who have recently returned from Maternity, Shared Parental or Adoption Leave.

How can employers prepare?

There is nothing that employers are required to action until the government publishes the relevant regulations, however it may help to consider how these new employee rights would affect your internal policies and procedures. For example, you may want to start developing procedures to keep track of those employees who are pregnant or who have recently returned from parental leave.

You may require better systems to help identify alternative suitable vacancies when a role is being made redundant. And, when the new regulations are provided, your internal policies would need updating along with managerial and HR training.

Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 provides eligible employed parents whose newborn babies are admitted to neonatal care, 12 weeks paid leave in addition to their other leave entitlements such as Maternity and Paternity Leave. This new Act is expected to come into force in April 2025, however charities and trade unions are urging the government to implement this sooner.

Parents would be eligible for these rights if their baby receives neonatal care in a health setting for more than seven continuous days before they reach 28 days old. The amount of leave and pay would be based on how long the baby receives neonatal care. However, to be eligible for paid leave, employees will be required to have worked at the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

How can employers prepare?

Employers can start to consider how these new rights would affect their internal policies. You also don’t need to wait for the new regulations to come into effect to implement a neonatal leave and pay policy that works for your business. For example, you may want to start providing unpaid leave or flexible working arrangements to staff whose babies require neonatal care to start off with. This ensures that the leave that parents take is more predictable and it would improve.

Which employees are entitled to these new rights? 

Workers would be entitled to these new rights depending on their employment status. Most permanent staff would be classified as employees and would have these rights available to them, as opposed to workers working on a temporary basis or fixed-term contracts.

However, after 12 continuous weeks in an assignment, temporary workers are generally entitled to receive the same basic working and employment conditions as the hirer’s employees. And, to qualify for many maternity rights, a temporary worker would need to have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks.

Next steps 

The two new Acts seek to reduce disadvantages and unfair treatment in the workplace. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 seeks to specifically tackle pregnancy discrimination and disadvantages that expectant parents and those returning from family leave are reported to have experienced in the workplace. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 aims to help parents who are spending a significant amount of time in a neonatal unit focus on their baby’s care and their own wellbeing without fearing financial instability.

We will continue to keep our clients informed of any new employment rights developments. In the meantime, have look at our other industry insights.

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