On 15 July this year, the government announced that it is backing two Private Members’ bills that seek to enhance the rights of employees. One of these looks to provide parents with additional paid leave if their baby requires neonatal care and the other makes it unlawful for employers to withhold tips from employees. The government’s backing makes it much more likely that these bills will become law.
Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill
Babies born prematurely and/or who require specialist treatment after birth often need extensive periods of neonatal care in hospitals. This understandably puts parents in an uncertain and difficult position, which is only made worse by having the additional worry of a return to work looming over them. Parents with unwell babies often have to weigh up using their existing annual leave entitlements to care for their baby or returning to work whilst their baby is in hospital and being unable to be by their newborn’s side.
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill, introduced by Stuart McDonald MP, will entitle both parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave so that they can spend time with their baby and families during this stressful period. This 12 weeks’ leave will be in addition to maternity and paternity leave and will be available to employees from their first day of work. Neonatal Care Pay would require 26 weeks employment. It remains to be seen how neonatal leave and pay will work alongside existing leave entitlements as the details would be set out in regulations made once the bill becomes law. Babies covered by the proposed legislation are those who are admitted into hospital up to the age of 28 days and who have a continuous stay in hospital of at least seven full days. Parents will have 68 weeks from the date of the child’s birth in which to take the 12 weeks’ leave and the leave would have to be taken in uninterrupted periods of at least seven days.
Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill
There are thought to be over two million UK workers across the hospitality, leisure and services sectors, many of whom earn the National Minimum Wage and rely on tips to top up their pay. The issue of who ultimately receives tips has become increasingly important with the rising cost of living. Many workers do not receive the full service charge that customers pay, as there are still businesses that fail to pass the full amount on to their staff. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the move towards a cashless society has exacerbated this issue, resulting in calls to regulate the practice.
The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill, introduced by Dean Russell MP, proposes to make it unlawful for businesses to withhold tips and gratuities from their employees. The proposal is to develop a new statutory Code of Practice providing guidance to businesses on how tips and gratuities should be distributed. Once introduced, workers will gain the right to request information relating to an employer’s tipping record and be entitled to bring claims in the employment tribunal for any failure to comply with the new legislation.
Conclusion Despite the absence of an employment bill from the Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022, the government’s backing in July of both the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill and the Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill means these proposed employment rights are now expected to become law in 2023 and in force from around 2024.