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Horizon June 23

In this month’s Horizon, we are going to discuss three new employment bills, new guidance from ACAS relating to mental health, and the government proposals for changes to holiday calculations.

On the 24th of May 23, we saw three new employment bills go through their final stages within parliament and gain Royal Assent.  Parents and Carers will shortly benefit from new employment rights under the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, and the Carer’s Leave Bill.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay Act) will mean that working parents with a newborn baby who receive neonatal care will have the right to take up to 12 weeks of paid neonatal care leave.  Currently, parents in this position are required to use up their maternity, paternity, and/or shared parental leave entitlement. This new bill will enable those parents to have more time with their baby in addition to the standard statutory family leave entitlement already available.

Under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act, pregnant women, and new parents will see an extension of existing redundancy protections, to cover pregnancy and a period of time after parents return to work. Currently, parents are only protected from redundancy whilst on maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave.

And finally, for those employees who have dependants with long-term care needs, The Carers’ Leave Act will give them the right to take five days of leave per year. This is set to support 2.4 million carers across the UK by providing a better balance between their caring and work responsibilities, in turn enabling people to remain in employment. All part of delivering the government People Priorities which were announced in the latest budget.

Before we see these three bills enforced, the Government will lay down secondary legislation to implement these new entitlements. In the meantime, this provides an opportunity to review existing family-friendly policies and even adopt some of these changes within policies now.

ACAS has also recently published new guidance on reasonable adjustments. In particular, making a focus on mental health-related adjustments. The new guidance is designed to assist employers to navigate difficult conversations sensitively and ensure that a broad range of supportive measures are considered. This is an opportunity to review your current health and well-being offerings and policies, including your sickness policy. As we all know, a supportive employer that shows they care about their employees will ultimately see a more productive, engaged, and loyal workforce. How confident are your line managers when it comes to handling health concerns?

And to finish, in May we saw the government announce proposals to simplify holiday pay and entitlement under UK law. The current legislation governing holiday entitlement and pay has become complex over time, particularly for a typical worker including those with irregular hours, working on zero-hours contracts, or with variable pay.  Currently, leave entitlement is made up of two parts derived from the EU’s Working Time Directive, making it questionable under which regulation to which the holiday calculations fall within. This announcement proposes that a single annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks for all workers only applies. Whilst this does not mean an increased leave entitlement for employees, the proposal will create a much simpler, single system to calculate holiday pay.

The government is also looking to enable rolled-up holidays again going against the grain of the EU Working Time Directive. Based on an annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks a year, an employer would typically calculate rolled-up holiday pay as an additional 12.07% on top of the hourly wage. As such, workers would receive an additional payment in respect of holiday pay each month. This will defeat the objective of the Working Time Regulation as it deters workers from taking their holiday. However, this is likely to be a relief for many employers with agency staff because the current legal framework which requires employees to be paid based on the average of the previous 52 working weeks, leaves them in a position where employees are potentially entitled to a higher rate of holiday pay than their normal rate of pay.

For more information on employee well-being and mental health, speak to our team.

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