Many of the rights proposed under the Employment Bill progressed via separate Private Members' Bills and are now law.
Since the Employment Bill was first mentioned in the Queen's Speech in 2019, we have been waiting to see when the draft Bill would be published and also when the rights proposed under it would come into force. By mid 2022, you would not have been alone in wondering whether this would ever come to fruition. However, since then, many of the proposals that were expected to be contained in the Bill have been progressed via UK Government backed Private Members' Bills ("PMB"). The new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace is also progressing via a PMB.
What is a PMB?
A PMB is a legislative bill that is introduced by a private member of Parliament and is not part of the Government's planned legislation. Such bills rarely become law. However, because the UK Government is backing the PMBs mentioned below, it is very likely they will make it to the statute books.
What do the PMBs that the UK Government is backing provide for?
The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill will amend the current process for dealing with flexible working requests. Employers will be required to consult with an employee about alternatives to a request before rejecting it. Employees will be able to make two requests in any 12 month period and will no longer have to explain the effect the change will have on their employer nor suggest ways of dealing with it. The current three month period for employers dealing with a request will be reduced to two months. The UK Government has said secondary legislation following this Bill becoming law will make the right to request a day one right.
The Bill received Royal Assent in July 2023, and employers will have around 12 months to prepare before the changes come into force in 2024.
The Carer's Leave Bill proposes a flexible entitlement to one week's unpaid leave for employees who are providing or arranging care for a dependent with a long term care need. This will be a day one right and the employee will not need to provide any evidence for whom the leave is being used or how it is being used. The week entitlement can be taken either as half or full days up to the full week. Employees making use of the leave will be protected from dismissal or detriment as a consequence of having taken it. The Bill received Royal Assent in May 2023 but the provisions are not expected to be in force until May 2024 at the earliest.
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill will extend the protected period during which employees on maternity leave must be offered suitable alternative employment in the event that their role is made redundant. The protected period will run from when the employee notifies the employer of the pregnancy until 18 months after the birth. These protections will also be extended to those utilising shared parental leave or adoption leave. The Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons on 3 February 2023. During the debate it was confirmed that the UK Government "was considering" extending the time limit for making claims from three to six months. The Bill received Royal Assent in May and will come into force in July 2023, giving the UK Government power to make Regulations enacting the new law. The Regulations will be made "in due course".
The Neonatal (Leave and Pay) Bill will introduce a right for parents of a child receiving, or who has received, neonatal care to 12 weeks' leave. The right to the leave is a day one right. However, to be eligible for the right to receive pay the employee must have worked for at least 26 weeks with the employer. Employers will be able to reclaim payment from the UK Government in the same was as can currently be done for other paid statutory leave. Parents will also have the same employment protections as those on other family related leave. Although this Bill received Royal Assent in May 2023, it is not expected to come into effect until 2025.
The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill will require employers to allocate tips, gratuities and service charges that are paid (or over which the employer exercises control) to their workers without any deductions. A code of practice is currently being developed that employers will have to have regard to when distributing the tips. Employers will also have to (1) have a written policy setting out how tips will be dealt with in their workplace and (2) keep a record of how tips are allocated. The Bill received Royal Assent in May and is expected to come into force in 2024 after consultation has taken place on the code of practice.
Currently there is no timescale for implementing the Employment Bill proposals on creating a new single labour market enforcement body.
Never part of the Employment Bill, but stemming from a recommendation in the Taylor Review, the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill provides workers, including agency workers, and employees with the opportunity to request a more predictable working pattern. If the workers working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours or times they work, or if it is a fixed term contract of less than 12 months, then the worker will be able to make a formal application to change to a more predictable working pattern. However currently this is not a day one right, with it being expected that a qualification period of 26 weeks work for the employer will be required. The application process is set to be similar to the right to request flexible working regime.
What about the duty to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace?
The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill will introduce a positive duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent employees from carrying out acts of sexual harassment. If a successful claim of sexual harassment is made in an Employment Tribunal and it is found that the employer has failed in this duty then the employee may be entitled to an uplift in their compensation of up to 25% in consequence of that failure. The Bill was also originally intended to re-instate (and slightly alter) employers' liability for harassment (of any type, not limited to sexual harassment) by a third party. However, the House of Lords amended the Bill in July to remove the provisions relating to protection from third party harassment. As drafted this Bill will come into force one year after it receives Royal Assent.
The content of this webpage is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Morton Fraser LLP accepts no responsibility for the content of any third party website to which this webpage refers. Morton Fraser LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.