Key employment law updates | November 2022

Carer's Leave Bill backed by government

The government announced last month that it was backing the Carer's Leave Bill (the Bill) which will increase its chances of being passed into law. The Bill will introduce a 'new and highly flexible entitlement of one week's unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care'. The leave will be available for eligible employees from day one of their employment, giving carers support regardless of how long they have been employed. The leave can be taken flexibly to support a carers' needs and will be protected like other forms of statutory family related leave. No evidence will be needed on how the leave is to be used or for who it will be used for.

This is one bill in a suite of bills the government has backed recently in order to reduce the turnover rate of employees who are perhaps feeling forced to leave their jobs as a result of their caring responsibilities and help to keep them in work. It will be important for employers to build suitable policies around the Bill which demonstrate their support for employees who are carers, as well as mitigate any risk that might potentially arise.

Statutory code on 'fire and rehire' to be published in the 'near future'

Following the anger at the treatment of P&O Ferries' staff, the Government promised regulation of the fire and hire practices with a statutory code. This month, a debate was held in the House of Lords which provided an update on the Statutory Code of Practice (the Code) for those undertaking 'fire and rehire' practices. A precise timeline was not given and there is still no sign of the draft Code; however the Government has made it clear that whilst they are still in favour of a statutory code, they are not pushing for a ban on the practice of dismissal and re-engagement but instead, it should be used as a last resort if changes to employment contracts are critical, and agreement is not possible.

Possible sanctions were also mentioned. One option would be for tribunals to take the Code into account and award uplifts to compensation if the Code was not followed during the process (in the same way as they currently do with the ACAS Code). As it is still unclear when the Code will come into place (or what it will look like) we will keep you updated on any developments. If you have any questions on the process, feel free to contact us.

New proposed legislation to offer greater protection from redundancy for pregnant women and new parents

The government has backed a new law - The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill (the Bill) to help pregnant women and new parents stay in work. The Bill, if approved, will extend Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations 1999 to give employees who have returned to work after parental leave an additional six months of redundancy protection helping to shield new parents and expectant mothers from workplace discrimination, offering them greater job security at an important time in their lives.

Currently, in a redundancy situation any suitable alternative vacancy available in the company must be offered to the employee on maternity leave ahead of other at-risk employees who are not on maternity leave. Failure to provide this could result in a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and/or discrimination (neither of which require 2 years' service).

If approved, the measures all form part of the government's strive towards ensuring more people are able to stay in work, particularly with the cost-of-living crisis.

Law to protect tips, gratuities and services charges is backed by the Government

The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill (the Bill), a bill intended to overhaul tipping practices to ensure all tips, gratuities and services charges are distributed evenly among staff (and paid without deductions, except where required by tax law) has been backed by the Government. This bill will affect UK hospitality workers, especially where tips significantly supplement their income. Currently, payments made by card are directly paid to the employer (and become their legal property) which does not obligate them to distribute fairly to staff. However, the Bill will prohibit any business retaining all or part of tips, gratuities and service charges paid by customers, instead requiring them to be allocated to staff. 

It is unclear exactly when this bill will be passed into law, but the overhaul of tipping practices has been long overdue. If you are in an industry that benefits from tipping, then this is something to keep an eye on as your duties will change once this law is brought into effect.