Key employment law updates | June 2023

Menstruation in the workplace

Proposals to make menopause a protected characteristic in its own right under the Equality Act may have been rejected by the Government earlier this year, but the 'Davin effect' means that the impact of menopause and menopausal symptoms on women at work is being increasingly discussed and acknowledged. 

45% of women believe menopausal symptoms have negatively impacted their work performance but only a minority of UK employers have introduced specific polices to help those struggling with menstrual, perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has introduced a new standard to assist organisations to identify misconceptions around menstruation and menopause, highlighting the impact the taboo surrounding them can have on workplace support and culture.

The standard includes practical recommendations such as:

  • More training for managers on the impact of menstruation and menopause
  • Flexible working and flexible approaches to dress/uniform
  • Checking the company policies include appropriate reference to, and accommodation for, menstruation and menopause
  • Comfortable seating and desk fans
  • Flexible dress code
  • Use of non-stigmatising language

The BSI point out that not addressing this topic risks attrition of significant parts of your workforce and, in some cases, discrimination claims (relying on age, sex or disability as the relevant protected characteristics).

How we can help

We have significant expertise in this area and can work with you to improve your workplace by providing comprehensive menopause training for your workforce. If you would like to find out more, please contact Joanne Boyle.

Help your employees in hot weather

After an unusually warm start to the summer, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) called on employers to take action to protect those working in extreme heat.

All employers are required under health and safety legislation to ensure temperatures in work buildings are reasonable. Whilst there is no legal maximum limit on reasonable temperatures, the HSE highlighted that heat (whether working inside or outside) is a hazard which employers must risk assess and take practical/simple steps to reduce. For example:

  1. Keep air-con on during heatwaves
  2. Allow flexible working
  3. Implement a flexible dress code to allow and encourage staff to dress appropriately
  4. Provide staff with personal fans
  5. Private access to ice cold water
  6. Use of window blinds to keep the workplace cool
  7. Provide a shaded outdoor area for coffee-breaks and lunch
  8. Treat your staff to ice lollies!

See the HSE's guidance on Temperate in the Workplace, for more details.

Parents and Carers Bills

New family-rights legislation becomes law 

Towards the end of May 2023, the Government announced that three Acts which stem from family-friendly private members' bill received Royal Assent.

What are the new laws, what do they do and when will they come into effect?

Although the Acts have been passed, the details of the new rights will be contained in separate regulations which have not yet been drafted or implemented.

The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023

This law will allow eligible employed parents whose baby is admitted to neo natal care to take up to 12 weeks of leave in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave. Those with service of 26 weeks or more will be entitled to statutory pay during such Neonatal Leave.

Regulations to implement this law are reported to be expected in April 2025.

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

Existing law protects employees who are on maternity leave from being made redundant; where there is a suitable alternative vacancy the employer is obliged to offer it to an employee who is on maternity leave in priority to other employees who have been provisionally selected for redundancy.

This new law will enable the Government to expand that legal protection to those who are pregnant and those who have recently returned from family-related leave (e.g. maternity, adoption and shared parental leave). Further detail will be provided by any regulations made, although in a consultation response in July 2019 the Government committed to extending the redundancy protection so that it applied to apply from the date an employee notifies the employer of her pregnancy through until six months after the end of related family leave.

There is currently no indication when the regulations to make provision to implement these new redundancy protections will be made.

The Carer's Leave Act 2023

This will create a new statutory unpaid leave entitlement for up to one week (in total over a 12 month period) for employees in order to provide or arrange care for a dependent with long-term care requirements. The right is intended to be a day-one right for employees who will be able to take the leave in days or half days subject to giving the required notice to employers.

Regulations to implement this law are reported to be expected after March 2024.

Do we need to change our policies now?

No. It is worth being aware that these new statutory rights will be in effect in the near future though since it might make sense for your business to voluntarily offer or enhance the Neonatal and Carer's Leave rights that you will soon be obliged to offer. It would also be sensible to keep abreast of regulations to implement the protection from redundancy rights for those who are pregnant, on or recently returned from family-related leave as this will need to be factored into any restructurer/redundancy planning closer to the time that regulations are due to be implemented.

We will keep you up to date on timescales as/when more detail on the regulations are available. 

Report calls for increased statutory paternity leave and pay

More than half of families struggle financially when a parent takes paternity leave. It is common that some new parents who are entitled to paternity leave ultimately end up working instead, leaving many parents feeling that they were not able to take enough time off work after a new baby.

On 15 June, a joint report by the Centre for Progressive Policy, Pregnant Then Screwed and Women in Data was published which called on the UK Government to increase the length of non-transferable statutory paternity leave to a minimum of 6 weeks and for it to be paid at 90% of income in line with the start of statutory maternity pay.

Although some employers adopt a much more generous approach than the statutory minimum, it is important to recognise the correlation between parental leave policies and employees feeling included, supported and happy in the workplace. 

If you would like support in expand your offering in terms of caregiver leave, please let us know and we can assist in drafting updated, progressive and inclusive policies.