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Household Bills

Better protections for parents and carers on the way

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

Parents and unpaid carers will be better protected at work after three new laws received royal assent this week.

Three new Bills are set to become law which will protect leave entitlement for parents and unpaid carers, as well as clarify redundancy rules for pregnant women.

While they’ve received Royal Assent, they’re expected to take effect in 2024.

Here are the protections which will become law:

1) The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act

This will allow up to 12 weeks of paid neonatal care leave for employed parents whose children are admitted to neonatal care, so that they can spend more time with their baby.

This is on top of other leave and pay entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave.

Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula, said that under this law, parents of babies who are admitted to hospital aged 28 days or less will have the right to Neonatal Leave and Pay if the baby is in hospital for a continuous period of seven days or more.

She explained: “The maximum amount of leave available is 12 weeks, to be taken in one block at the end of maternity/paternity leave. The Government is yet to confirm how this new right will work with shared parental leave. The leave will be available from day one of employment. Statutory neonatal pay will be subject to 26 weeks’ service and earning above the lower earnings limit (currently £123 per week).”

Palmer added that notice will need to be given, although very short informal notice will be acceptable when leave is taken very soon after the hospital admission.

“One week’s notice will be expected where leave begins at a stage where the baby has not recently been admitted,” she said.

2) The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act

This law will provide redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents with the extension of existing redundancy protections to cover pregnancy, and a period of time after parents return to work.

It comes after the Government said “shocking” research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that approximately one in nine mothers were either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job.

Currently when a company is facing a redundancy situation, employers need to offer those who are on maternity leave a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists, but this will also apply to those on adoption/shared parental leave when this law comes into effect, Palmer said.

She added: “In addition, the protection will apply from the point the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether verbally or in writing, and will end 18 months after the birth.”

3) The Carer’s Leave Act

This will entitle unpaid carers to a week of flexible unpaid leave a year, for employees who are caring for a dependant with a long-term care need.

Charities have been calling for further support for the millions of unpaid carers in the UK, and the Government said The Carer’s Leave Act will “provide the support they need to continue with their invaluable contribution to society”.

It added: “Once in force, they won’t have to struggle between caring for the ones they love and working to provide for their families.”

Palmer said: “This law is a first-day right, so will be available to eligible employees from the first day of employment with no requirement to provide evidence other than self-certification. The leave can be used for any type of care, such as taking someone to hospital appointments or assisting with financial matters. There is no restriction on how the leave is used, but usual qualifying criteria for ‘dependants’ will apply.”

‘Support they need’

Business minister, Kevin Hollinrake, said: “We know how stressful it can be for parents caring for a newborn in neonatal care, or someone who is trying to juggle work with caring responsibilities, and these additional protections will ensure they get the support they need.

“Over the past year, we have proven our commitment to supporting workers across the UK, including raising the National Living Wage to its highest yet. Protecting and enhancing workers’ rights whilst supporting businesses to grow remains a priority for this Government and a dynamic labour helps to drive up wages, employment and economic growth.”