A NUMBER of pieces of legislation are being considered this year which could have big implications for UK employers and their teams.
Proposed changes to employment law rights cover areas such as flexible working, third party harassment and maternity protections.
Expanding flexible working
The new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill proposes:
- the right to request flexible working from day one of employment – currently employees need 26 weeks service before they can request
- the right to make two requests in a 12-month period – currently only one request can be made per year
- employers will need to consult with staff and look at options before rejecting the request
- cutting the time employers have to consider requests, from three months to two months
- removing a requirement for the employee to consider the impact on the employer and how this may be mitigated.
Third party harassment
Proposed amendments to the Equality Act to address harassment in the workplace will reintroduce old rights that were repealed some years ago. The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill will extend employers’ duties to protect against sexual harassment and reintroduce protection (and businesses’ responsibility and therefore legal liability) for third-party harassment.
- It will create a statutory duty requiring an employer to prevent sexual harassment of employees and workers.
- It will also make the employer liable for harassment committed by third parties, for example, patients. This third-party liability applies to all forms of unlawful harassment, for example, racial harassment, offensive conduct based on age or disability, etc.
The Carer’s Leave Bill will introduce a week’s unpaid leave for employees providing or arranging care for a dependant with long term care needs.
A government news release said that an estimated two million employed people provide unpaid care while balancing work alongside their caring responsibilities. “With no dedicated statutory leave entitlement for these informal carers currently in place,” it said, “many have to resort to taking other forms of leave to ensure they can care for those dependent on them.
“The Carer’s Leave Bill, introduced by Wendy Chamberlain MP and backed by the government, will introduce a new and highly flexible entitlement of one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care.”
Neonatal Care Bill
This bill proposes introducing 12 weeks paid leave for employees with responsibility for children receiving neonatal care. This will be paid at the statutory rate and will be paid in addition to maternity or paternity entitlement.
A government news release said the bill “will allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave, so that they can spend more time with their baby at what is a hugely stressful time.”
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, led by Labour’s Dan Jarvis, would prevent companies from making a woman redundant from the moment she discloses her pregnancy until the child is 18 months old.
According to a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, at least 54,000 women a year are pushed out of the workforce after becoming pregnant.
The proposal also covers those on adoption leave or shared parental leave. A government news release said: “The measures will be beneficial to businesses, helping to improve relations with employees and reducing a source of conflict that can be costly and time consuming.”
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