Becky Lawton: Will new staff family rights come into force in 2022?

The government has committed to introducing several new family rights following a number of consultations over the last couple of years.

The introduction of neonatal leave and pay will create a new statutory entitlement for employees whose babies spend an extended period of time in neonatal care. The intention is to provide additional support for parents to deal with events that are difficult to anticipate and plan for.

The leave will be available to all employees, without the need to accrue a specific amount of service with their employer. The same employment rights and protections from detriment or discrimination will apply as for parents taking other family-related leave. However, the government has yet to decide about several aspects of the entitlement.

The government has also promised to introduce a new statutory right for unpaid carers to take up to one week of unpaid leave per year.  Employees will be required to give notice on the same lines as for annual leave and will self-certify their entitlement. Protection will be provided against detriment or dismissal and the leave will be available to all employees, regardless of their length of service.

The legislation for unpaid carers will be brought in alongside other measures to make it easier for people to work flexibly by making it a default right to request flexible working from day one. This consultation concluded on 1 December 2021, which indicates that it may be some time before these changes are introduced.

Finally, the government has agreed to an extension of the redundancy protection period to come into force from the point at which the employee notifies an employer of a pregnancy, whether orally or in writing. This enhanced protection will last until six months after the end of the employee’s maternity leave. The protection will also be extended to those returning from adoption leave and shared parental leave.

To minimise the risk of disputes, it will be particularly important for employers to ensure that a record is made of any verbal notification of pregnancy made by an employee.

Although it is hoped that these additional family rights will come into force in 2022, there is currently no timeframe for implementation. It remains to be seen when we will be given a more definite timescale.

Becky Lawton is a senior associate in the employment team at Charles Russell Speechlys