The Government recently announced its support in second readings of a number of Private Members’ Bills proposing reforms originally slated for the elusive Employment Bill. Most provide for the detail of the changes to be made by regulation and are therefore light on detail, but they do increase the likelihood of proposals actually coming into force in the next year or two. The Bills now confirmed to have Government support include:
- Carer’s Leave Bill: a ‘day one’ right for those with certain caring responsibilities to unpaid leave of one week per year, which can be taken in half or individual days and will not require evidence of entitlement. The expectation is that regulations would be laid and commenced in 2024. See the press release here.
- Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill: improvements to the right to request flexible working to allow two requests (rather than one) per 12 months, require employers to consult before refusing a request and to make decisions within two rather than three months, and remove the requirement that the employee must explain in the statutory request what effect the change would have on the employer and how that might be dealt with. The Bill does not include an amendment to make this a ‘day one’ right on the understanding that this would be done by secondary legislation; the Government supports the Bill but has not yet clearly committed to remove the current 26 week service requirement.
- Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill: before making an employee on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave redundant, an employer must offer them a suitable alternative vacancy, if available, with the employer or an associated employer. The Bill will extend this redundancy protection to cover periods during or after pregnancy (including after early miscarriage) or after maternity, adoption or shared parental leave; regulations will specify the period of protection but the Government press release here suggests the period will be up to 18 months after the birth.
- Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill: the introduction of employer liability for harassment of employees by third parties, and a new proactive duty to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace (with a potential 25% uplift to tribunal awards for breach). The Bill envisages it will come into force one year after it receives Royal Assent.
The Government previously announced its support for Private Members’ Bills on :
- Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill: a ‘day one’ right to a minimum of one week’s leave for employed parents of a child requiring neonatal care, and statutory pay for those with 26 weeks’ service, expected to come into force 18 months after the Bill receives Royal Assent.
- Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill.
Some of the other Private Members’ Bills currently awaiting a second reading also replicate earlier Government employment law reform proposals (and may therefore also receive Government support at second reading), for example Bills introducing limitations on the use of non-disclosure agreements, and a right to request more predictable and stable employment terms. Other Private Members Bills still at an early stage include proposed rights relating to fertility treatment and miscarriage leave as well as minor changes to paternity leave. HR practitioners may need to plan for a substantial update to staff handbook policies in the not too distant future….
The Autumn Statement included confirmation of increases to the national minimum wage rates from April 2023. The rate will be £10.42 an hour (up from £9.50) for workers aged 23 or over, £10.18 an hour for those aged 21-22 and £7.49 an hour for 18 to 20-year-olds; the apprentice rate will be £5.28 an hour.
Like other allowances and limits, the employer NICs threshold will be frozen until April 2028.
The HSF Tax Group has produced a full briefing on the Autumn Statement, here.
For further information, please contact:
William Arrenberg, Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills