2023 is shaping up to be one of the busiest years for employment law in a while, with significant changes proposed to existing pieces of legislation, as well as new legal requirements likely to come into force during the year. This is challenging news for business owners and managers but have no fear: the HR Consultants at MAD-HR are doing the hard work on your behalf and trawling through the detail for you. So, here’s the summary version of what we can expect to become law this year:

1. Brexit Freedoms Bill

The snappily titled “Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill” (known to its friends as the “Brexit Freedoms Bill”) proposes to remove, amend or replace all legislation which came to the UK originally from the EU. Key areas covered include:

  • The Working Time Directive
  • The Agency workers regulations
  • Statutory Holiday Entitlement
  • GDPR
  • Part time Workers’ Regulations and
  • Fixed Term Workers Regulations

These are just some of the c.2,400 pieces of legislation likely to be affected. Any EU-derived law not already amended, appealed or replaced or by 31st December 2023 will simply cease to apply in the UK. On that basis, the government has its work cut out trying to have the new legislation in place by the deadline.

So, what does this mean for my business?

As yet, we don’t have the full detail on any proposed changes, but MAD-HR will be providing regular updates via our website as the picture becomes clearer – watch this space!

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2. Family Friendly – new laws

Several Bills are currently going through Parliament relating to rights for employees with family-related responsibilities. These include:

  • Carer’s leave – this will allow employees with caring responsibilities (e.g. those with elderly or disabled relatives) to take a week of unpaid leave per year. The right would be for any employee from day one of employment. This is in addition to the existing legal entitlement to unpaid Time Off for Dependents, which is available for emergency care.
  • Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill – currently any employee who is on maternity leave and facing a redundancy situation should get priority for any suitable vacancies, even over other employes whose roles are also at risk. The new legislation proposes to extend this right during the whole of pregnancy and for 6 months after the end of the 52 week maternity leave period. Similar protection will be made available to parents returning from a period of Adoption Leave or Shared Paternity Leave.
  • Neonatal leave and pay – this will allow parents the right to paid time off for children who are receiving or have received neonatal care. The period of time off will be a minimum of 1 week up to a maximum of 12 weeks and, like carer’s leave, will apply to employees from day one of employment.
  • Miscarriage Leave Bill – currently, if a miscarriage occurs after 24 weeks of pregnancy, employees are still entitled to maternity or paternity leave and pay. This new Bill would apply to parents who have experienced a miscarriage before 24 weeks. The right is to 3 days of paid leave to allow them to grieve. As with the other Bills above, we don’t know yet when this will become law.
  • Flexible working – the current law on this topic requires an employee to have at least 1 year’s service before they can make a flexible working request. The proposed revision to this would allow employees to make a formal flexible working request from day one of employment and allow them to make two requests per year, rather than the current limit to one request in a 12 month period.

So, what does this mean for my business?

The government has yet to give any timescales for when the new Family Friendly laws will come into effect. For now, employers should start planning for updates to any Employee Handbooks and/or Family Friendly Policies. We at MAD-HR will, of course, continue to provide updates on the timescales as soon as we know them and we can help employers with any policy revisions required, to ensure you remain legally compliant.

3. Third-party Harassment at Work

This Bill will introduce a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment of employees by third parties, for example, customers or suppliers. Under the Bill, employers will become liable for the harassment if they are considered not to have taken all reasonable steps to prevent it. Full details are yet to be available but the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said it will provide a statutory code of practice once the Bill becomes law.

So, what does this mean for my business?

Hopefully you already have policies in place to prevent any kind of harassment for your employees, not just harassment relating to sex. However, any Equality & Diversity policies are likely to need updating in line with the promised code of practice from EHRC, once it is available. Employees should also receive regular training on how to prevent and deal with harassment both from other employees and third parties. Your MAD-HR consultancy team will, of course, be happy to help with any policy revisions and provision of training.

4. And finally…

It won’t have escaped your notice that we have a Coronation this year! To celebrate, the government announced that there will be an additional Bank Holiday, on 8th May.

So, what does this mean for my business?

You will need to review the wording in employees’ contracts regarding Bank Holiday entitlement:

  • If the contract states that employees ‘are entitled to 8 Bank Holidays a year’ and / or names the specific Bank Holidays, you have no contractual obligation to allow the employees the additional Bank Holiday and can decide whether or not to use discretion and allow them paid time off anyway. (Just bear in mind the impact on employee morale if you say “no”, though…).
  • If the contract wording is less specific and uses wording like, “you are entitled to ‘x’ days of annual leave plus Bank Holidays”, then you may well have a contractual obligation to allow employees the paid time off for the additional day.
  • Remember that employees who work part-time are entitled to Bank Holidays on a pro rata basis. In normal times, an employee who works, say, 3 days a week would be entitled to 3/5 of 8 Bank Holidays, i.e. 5 days (rounded from 4.8). If the contract wording is woolly on Bank Holiday entitlement, then the example above becomes 3/5 of 9 Bank Holidays i.e. 5.5 days (rounded from 5.4).

If you’d like help reviewing contract wording around Bank Holidays or calculating part time entitlement, just contact MAD-HR and we’d be happy to help!