Progress of Employment Bills
25 May 2023
An unprecedented seven Private Members’ Bills, all with Government support and introducing a wide range of employment law reforms, have been gradually working through the parliamentary process, with four now having been granted Royal Assent.
Here we provide an update on the progress of each of these Bills.
Tips – the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 2 May 2023. The Act makes it unlawful for businesses to withhold any qualifying tips, gratuities and service charges from staff. It provides that employers must introduce a fair policy for the allocation of tips between workers within a set timescale. A new statutory Code of Practice, due to be published for consultation, will provide more detailed guidance on how tips should be distributed amongst workers. Further regulations will be required to bring these provisions into force, and there is no confirmed timeframe for them to take effect, but it is expected during 2024.
Redundancy protection –the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023. The Act extends the existing protection for those on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, who have the right to be offered any suitable alternative employment if their role is redundant. The ‘protected period of pregnancy’ will begin when the employer is informed of the pregnancy, and protection will continue to apply for a period of six months upon returning from the relevant leave. Further regulations will be required to bring these provisions into force, and there is no confirmed timeframe for them to take effect.
Carer’s leave – the Carer’s Leave Act received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023. It entitles employees, from the first day of employment, to take up to one week’s unpaid leave (in single or half days) in any 12-month period to provide, or arrange care, for a dependent with a “long-term care need”. Long-term care need will include:
- someone with an illness or injury that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months;
- someone with a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010; or
- someone who requires care for reasons connected to their old age.
Further regulations will be required to bring these provisions into force, and there is no confirmed timeframe for them to take effect.
Neonatal care – the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act also received Royal Assent on 24 May 2024. It enables parents with responsibility for a child receiving neonatal care to take up to 12 weeks’ additional paid leave. Employees will also be protected from dismissal or detriment if they take this leave. The right to leave will apply from the first day of employment, although at least 26 weeks’ continuous service will be required for the leave to be paid at the usual statutory rate. Further regulations will be required to bring these provisions into force, and there is no confirmed timeframe for them to take effect.
Flexible working – the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill is set to enhance employees’ rights to request flexible working. It will introduce the following measures:
- employees will be able to make two requests (rather than just one) in any 12-month period;
- employers will be required to consult with employees before rejecting any request;
- employees will no longer be required to set out how the employer might deal with the effects of their request; and
- employers will be required to respond to a request within two months rather than three.
The current statutory reasons for rejecting a flexible working request will remain unchanged. The Bill does not include a ‘day one’ right to request flexible working as was originally anticipated. However, it has been confirmed by the Government that it will introduce this right via secondary legislation. This Bill has reached the second reading in the House of Lords.
Predictable work – the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill gives workers the right to request a predictable work pattern. This will apply to workers with a minimum of 26 weeks’ service, who will be entitled to make up to two applications to request a change to their contractual terms in a 12-month period. As with requests for flexible working, employers will be able to refuse a request for predictable hours on certain specific grounds. This Bill has reached the second reading in the House of Lords. Further regulations will be required to bring these provisions into force, and there is no confirmed timeframe for them to take effect.
Harassment – the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill will introduce a new duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual harassment of their employees. Alongside this, employers will be liable for harassment of employees by third parties (e.g. clients/customers), unless they have taken all reasonably practicable steps to prevent the sexual harassment. If a tribunal finds the employer is in breach of this new duty, it can award an uplift to compensation of up to 25%. This Bill is awaiting its second reading in the House of Lords. It has recently been reported, however, that due to the number of amendments tabled by Conservative peers, this Bill has been delayed and may even fail due to lack of parliamentary time.
Note that none of the reforms introduced under these Private Members Bills currently have any confirmed timescale to take effect. Secondary legislation (regulations) will be required to implement the new employment rights in full and will set out in more detail how they will work in practice. It will require further consultation before they take effect. Even for those granted Royal Assent, it is likely that any secondary legislation will not take effect until 2024.
We will update you with any further developments.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2023.