Additional leave and protections for parents and carers confirmed

8 June 2023

Three new pieces of legislation that will provide parents and unpaid carers additional leave and new protections have received royal assent and are expected to come into force shortly.

Carer's leave

The government have introduced a new right for employees to take one week's unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need. A 'dependant' will include a partner, parent, child or anyone else that relies on the employee for care, and the right will be available from the first day of employment. Leave will be able to be used flexibly across the year as required and employees will not need to provide evidence of who they are caring for or why the leave is being used.

An employee who takes care leave will be protected from being dismissed or subjected to a detriment (which can include a wide range of things such as not offering a promotion, denying an opportunity for training, ostracising an employee, or dismissing them) as a result of taking carer's leave.

Secondary legislation is required for carer's leave to come into effect and it is expected that it will not be until April 2024.

As statutory carer's leave is unpaid and limited to one week per year, it remains to be seen how regularly carer's leave will be used in practice. Age UK welcomed the change in their response to the consultation, commenting that the most important thing for carers is that their future employment prospects would not be affected. However, they noted that the financial strain of being a carer can be considerable and they hope that progressive employers would be encouraged to go further, including introducing paid leave or options for career breaks.

Neonatal care leave

New legislation has been introduced to allow each parent to take up to 12 weeks' leave, which will be paid subject to qualifying service, to spend time with their babies if they are born premature or sick and are receiving neonatal care.

It will be available to employees from their first day of employment and will apply to parents of babies who are admitted to hospital up to the age of 28 days and who have a continuous stay in hospital of 7 full days or more. Employees will be eligible for neonatal care leave regardless of length of service but will only be entitled to statutory pay after 26 weeks continuous service. It is expected that there will be some additional eligibility requirements (which will be introduced through secondary legislation) such as minimum earnings.

Parents will be able to take this leave in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave.

Bliss, the charity which supports families with premature and sick babies, have been campaigning for the introduction of neonatal leave for some time and welcome its introduction. They are now lobbying government to bring implementation forward from the current expected date of April 2025.

Extension to redundancy protections

New legislation has been introduced to extend the protections which are currently available for employees on maternity leave, to cover pregnant employees and those returning after a period of family leave.

Currently, if a redundancy situation arises during an employee's maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, the employee is entitled (in preference to other potentially redundant employees) to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available. This protection ends once the employee has returned to work.

New legislation will introduce regulations to extend this protection to pregnant employees (from the point that the employer is informed of the pregnancy), and those who have returned from a period of maternity leave, adoption leave and shared parental leave for a period of 6 months after their return date.

Further regulations are required to bring these protections in to law, which the government have said will be implemented 'in due course'. This is quite a substantial change to the benefit of employees, increasing the period of protection by over a year.  

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