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New updates to UK employment law and what they mean

On Saturday the 6th of April, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shared four new pieces of employment law.

These legislation changes covered:

  • Flexible working
  • The Carer’s Leave Act 2023
  • Paternity and adoption leave
  • The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023

Below, we explore how these four major changes to legislation have changed workers’ rights, alongside current events affecting these groups. Our CIPD-qualified People Operations Manager, Jaimee Bishop, also shares her insights.

The Employment Rights (Flexible Working) Act 2023

The Flexible Working Act gives employees the right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment, rather than after the currently mandated window of 26 weeks.

Employees can make two statutory requests in any 12-month period, as opposed to the previous limit of one. Employers are also now required to provide an explanation if they wish to decline a request, a requirement that was previously absent. Additionally, a response must be given within two months, rather than the previous three month timeframe. 

Commenting on The Employment Rights Act 2023, Jaimee Bishop stated: 

“I believe that incorporating flexibility within a business brings so many benefits, for both employer and employee. Firstly, it can attract a more diverse workforce and retain staff, but it also allows a healthier work life balance which can reduce burnout. 

I’m well aware that flexibility may not be suitable for every business or individual, and approvals cannot/may not always be granted. I expect some challenges too; maintaining collaboration and communication among teams whilst protecting your culture may impact an employer. 

However, having this new legislation allows employees the confidence to initiate discussions on the matter. How people work or want to work can be unique and personal to them – and if flexibility helps employees be more productive, then great! Embracing flexibility can be an empowering arrangement for both employers and employees.”


The Carer’s Leave Act 2023

The Carer’s Leave Act gives employees the right to unpaid leave for caring responsibilities, lasting a maximum of one week per year.

This unpaid leave applies to anyone caring for a dependant; whether due to disability, old age, injury or illness likely to require at least three months’ care but will be available from the first day of employment.

The CIPD states that employers cannot deny an employee’s request for carer’s leave, however they can postpone it if there is reason for them to believe that the business will be unduly disrupted as a result.


The current state of caregiving

This legal recognition for caregivers was welcomed by the British trade union, Usdaw, however they raised concerns that it still won’t benefit this group to a full extent. 

Their General Secretary, Paddy Lillis stated “(…) without pay I am concerned it will make little practical difference to the daily struggle of carers to juggle their paid work with their care commitments, particularly now given the ongoing cost of living crisis when most members cannot afford to lose any income.”  

He further stated that the union would campaign for the act to mandate paid leave, as part of this employment law.


The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023

As per current current employment law, employees on maternity, parental or adoption leave are safeguarded against redundancy. As of April 6th, pregnant employees and those returning from leave now fall under the same act. Previously, these protections were not in place.

The protection for individuals on maternity leave has been extended from one year to two. Additionally, the CIPD states that fathers who take sufficient shared parental leave will now be protected for 18 months.


A closer look at pregnancy discrimination today

Despite legal protections against pregnancy discrimination, many parents, particularly mothers, still experience unfair treatment in the workplace, highlighting the significance of this act. 

Research conducted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in 2019 revealed that upon returning to work after childbirth, 1 in 9 mothers had been fired, made redundant, or faced mistreatment leading them to leave their jobs.

BEIS estimated that 54,000 women annually continue to lose their jobs due to pregnancy-related discrimination.

Recent data from a survey by Pregnant Then Screwed in 2023 shows a persisting trend, with 52% of women reporting experiencing discrimination during pregnancy, maternity leave or upon returning to work. 

Additional findings from the research revealed:

  • 7% of women lost their jobs due to redundancy, termination, or feeling compelled to leave
  • 19% of women departed from their employer as a result of negative encounters
  • 73% of women reported experiencing hurtful comments from colleagues about their pregnancy or maternity leave
  • 64% indicated that a boss or colleague made inappropriate remarks about their appearance during pregnancy.

Disturbingly:

  • 10% of women faced bullying or harassment while pregnant or upon returning to work and 1.62% recounted instances where their boss hinted that they should terminate their pregnancy.

Further commenting on The Protection from Redundancy Act 2023, Jaimee Bishop shared the following: 

“Having had two children myself, I have experienced first-hand how daunting the task of returning to work is, let alone dealing with the prospect of redundancy.

Redundancy protection for pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity, adoption leave and shared parental leave is important for ensuring fairness, equality and support for working parents. This will allow them to fully embrace their roles as parents without sacrificing their careers.”

Work with Distinct

At Distinct, we strive to remain in the know about employment law and ongoing equality issues. As leaders in the field, we take the time to understand organisations and candidates alike to ensure the right fit for all. Whether you’re seeking top talent or simply want some objective advice on the market, contact us today.

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