In the last few weeks, we have seen a number of significant developments in legislation around improving the rights of those with caring responsibilities, both for parents specifically and carers more generally.
Published on 11 November 2023, these regulations remove the requirement for 26 weeks’ service before being eligible to make a request for flexible working. The change makes the right to request flexible working a ‘Day 1’ right.
The new right will come into effect for applications on or after 6 April 2024.
This change will be significant for anyone starting a new job in 2024 and beyond, allowing parents and carers the opportunity to request flexible working to create a greater balance between their working and homelife responsibilities. Of course, this right to request flexible working will extend to all employees, so will also be of great interest to those simply looking to limit the number of days they need to commute to the office too, for example.
Currently, where a redundancy situation arises when an employee is on relevant leave, the employer is required to offer the employee a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available.
The protection during leave will remain and the Regulations will extend it further so that it will also apply during pregnancy and after the period of leave, from 6 April 2024 onwards.
The redundancy protection during pregnancy will start when an employee tells their employer about the pregnancy. If the pregnancy ends before the employee becomes entitled to statutory maternity leave, the protected period ends two weeks after the end of the pregnancy.
After returning from maternity leave, employees will continue to be protected up until 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or the date of birth if the employer has been informed of it.
Similarly, for those who have taken adoption leave, they will have protection during the period of leave and when they return to work for up to 18 months after the placement of the child.
Employees who take six or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave will also be protected during their leave and after it for a period of up to 18 months after the date of birth of the child.
Following the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 (Commencement) Regulations 2023 which brought the Act into force on 4 December 2023, there have been further draft Regulations presented in Parliament which set out the details of the right to take Carer’s Leave. These state that the right will be in force from 6 April 2024.
The legislation will allow employees who are unpaid carers up to five additional days unpaid leave a year to support them with their caring responsibilities.
To be entitled to benefit from the Regulations, employees need to be providing ‘long term care’ and employees will need to notify their employer of plans to take Carer’s Leave in advance where possible. It is expected the new Regulations will provide a sizeable benefit to over two million carers who are in employment.