NEW parents whose babies require specialist care after birth will be able to take additional paid time off work under new legislation.
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act is one of three major updates to family-friendly rights in the workplace that is on the horizon and mum-to-be Robyn Smith, of Precept, has welcomed the changes, plus amendments to the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act and the Carer’s Leave Act.
Every year, more than 90,000 babies are cared for in neonatal units in the UK because they have either been born prematurely – before 37 weeks of pregnancy – or full term but sick, according to charity Bliss.
Robyn, Employment Law & HR Associate at the Derby-based business, said: “All three pieces of legislation have now received Royal Assent, basically meaning that they’ve passed through Parliament and King Charles has given the go-ahead for the changes in these bills to become law.
“These three new pieces of legislation extend rights to parents and carers and mark the first major update to family-friendly rights in the workplace that we’ve seen for quite some time.
“Whilst these new family-friendly rights aren’t in force just yet, now is a good time for businesses to get their head around the impact that they will have on their workforce.”
So, what exactly are those changes?
The Neonatal Care Act will allow employees with at least 26 weeks’ service with their employer to take up to 12 weeks’ paid leave where their newborn baby is admitted to neonatal care. This will be in addition to the usual leave entitlements such as maternity, paternity, shared parental and/or adoption leave.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act, meanwhile, will extend existing redundancy protections whilst on maternity leave or shared parental leave to also cover pregnancy and a period of time after a new parent has returned to work. Essentially this is the right to be offered alternative roles in preference to other employees at risk of redundancy.
Robyn added: “The proposal for how long this protection would last when the bill worked its way through Parliament was 18 months after maternity leave has ended, so we’re still waiting to see if that is the case.”
The Carer’s Leave Act has been long awaited and really puts unpaid carers on Parliament’s agenda. It will create a new statutory leave entitlement for employees who are caring for a dependant with a long-term care need. This leave is unpaid, so some bodies argue this doesn’t go far enough. What it does do, is shine a much needs spotlight on the protections needed for unpaid carers. Final details of this act, and how it will impact businesses and their workers, is yet to be decided.
“As we say, these new rights aren’t in place just yet and we’re expecting some more legislation to be produced in due course which will fill in some of the missing details, including the specific impact of these changes and then they will take effect,” added Robyn.
Robyn and Precept’s Head of Employment Law & HR, Emma Tice, recently spoke to delegates attending the East Midlands Chamber’s HR & Wellbeing Forum at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s headquarters in Middleton about these changes and other expected changes to employment law that would impact their business in 2023.
These include additional statutory rights for those going through IVF treatment, changes to traditional working arrangements and the continued effects of a post-Brexit Britain. “This year and next is set to be a busy one for employment law and HR changes,” said Emma.
Wellbeing in the Workplace was also discussed at the event, with almost a quarter of the UK’s largest listed employers having improved their performance on workplace mental health over the past year, according to the CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark report that was released recently.
Emma added: “It’s important to understand what exactly stress is, and key indicators that you should be looking for if you know that any of your employees are struggling with their health and mental wellbeing; has their performance in the workplace changed? Are they withdrawn or showing unusually aggressive behaviour?
“As employers, it’s key to know your rights and how to handle such a sensitive subject. Keep in touch with employees who are absent, promote a work-life balance and communicate, communicate, communicate! If you’re in a sticky-situation, it’s always best to seek professional help and Precept are always willing to help.
“With wellbeing in mind, we are holding our first proper away day for our Precept staff next month. We have worked carefully on the agenda for the day to include activities to promote employee well-being and relationships, as well as good wholesome fun (in the usual crackers Precept way!) and let’s not forget some inclusive work to our brand values – it should be a great day!
“Don’t forget, if you want to be the first to know about any changes to employment law and HR, you need to be on our VIP list – give Precept a shout.”