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Changes to flexible working and redundancy rights – what employers in the care sector need to know

By Cecily Lalloo, Managing Director, Embrace HR

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With some major changes to UK Employment Law coming into force this year, Cecily Lalloo, Managing Director of Embrace HR, discusses what employers in the complex care sector need to be aware of. 

New changes to employment law are due to be implemented from April 2024, affecting the rights of employees, including those working in the care sector. 

Keeping up to date with changes in employment law and HR practices is essential for employers as Deputies appointed by the Court of Protection, and their clients who employ staff in their homes, not only to mitigate any potential legal issues down the line, but also to ensure you foster a positive work environment for your team. 

At Embrace HR, we specialise in helping employers in this sector keep up to date with the latest regulations to ensure they can support their staff with their own wellbeing, but also in offering the best standard of care to their clients. 

Here we take a look at two of the key upcoming changes and how these will impact you and your staff.

Changes to flexible working

On 6 April, 2024, the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, laid before parliament in December, will come into force, amending the Employment Rights Act 1996 and giving employees more rights around their opportunities for flexible working arrangements. 

Under the proposed legislation, employees will no longer be required to have worked for you for at least 26 weeks before they are entitled to make a flexible working request.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will also bring a number of changes that will affect you as an employer and how to deal with these requests.

The new rules state that employees may be able to make two flexible working requests in any 12 month period, and they will no longer be required to set out the effect their requested arrangement will have on the business, nor suggest ways their employer can manage it, as is currently the case. 

As an employer you must ensure you deal with any requests, including appeals within two months and before refusing a request, you will be required to consult with the employee. .

Why is flexible working important?

Looking after the health and well-being of your staff is crucial, no matter where they work.

In the care sector, their day-to-day role may involve a great deal of stress and responsibility, working with vulnerable individuals and their families and working long and unsociable hours

There are many reasons why a member of staff might need to submit a flexible working request, for example, to manage childcare, elderly care, or simply pursuing other interests outside of work. 

Flexible working arrangements can be beneficial for both the employee and the employer.

Allowing employees to maintain a better work-life balance has been shown to reduce stress and lead to greater overall job satisfaction, ultimately resulting in higher levels of productivity and staff retention. 

By having more flexibility in working hours, it opens up more opportunities for those who have parental or caregiver responsibilities, or those who may have to travel long distances to commute, creating a more inclusive environment which your employees will undoubtedly value. 

There is already a fair amount of flexibility when working in the care sector.

For those staff who do not have set patterns of work, they may request this, which can also prove beneficial to both employer and employee.

This will assist in both the management of time and other responsibilities.

The client will have consistency and continuity in the workforce and in the workplace, and the staff will be able to plan their work time around other activities.

What action should you take as an employer?

Failure to comply with employment law can end up being costly in terms of time management and may even result in claims being put to an employment tribunal, which no one wants to find themselves embroiled in, and will have a detrimental effect on the morale of staff, management and clients

Here are a few things you may wish to consider to help you and your staff prepare for the upcoming changes.

  • Review your current policies to ensure they align with the new regulations, updating and these to reflect the changes where necessary.
  • As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure your staff know about the changes to their employment rights and opportunities for flexible working, so communicate these clearly and be equipped to answer any questions or concerns they might have in response. 
  • If you are a case manager, deputy or other legal representative for a client who has staff working in your client’s homes, ensure they are aware of the legislative changes, as well as other family or parents in the home who may need to have an understanding of this.
  • Ensure there is a clear and formal process through which employees can submit flexible working requests and that they understand this process, offering additional training or support where necessary.
  • Give staff the opportunity to provide feedback on these processes in order to identify issues or areas in need of improvement — and ensure these are managed through the appropriate mechanisms.
  • Monitor and evaluate the impact of your flexible working policies and how these are impacting employees wellbeing, satisfaction and overall workplace performance and productivity.

Changes to redundancy protection – what you need to know 

Another important change to be aware of, protects an employee from being made redundant whilst pregnant or taking a period of family leave from work.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 will see an extension to the redundancy protection period for those affected by this. 

Employees will be protected from redundancy during pregnancy and for a period of 18 months after the birth, or placement of a child for those taking maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.

This is to ensure these employees are not at a disadvantage by being or having been absent from the workplace, should an organisation find itself in the unfortunate position of having to make redundancies. 

What action should you take? 

As discussed above, you should review and update your current policies to reflect these changes and communicate with your employees clearly to ensure they know their rights, while addressing any concerns they might have. 

For more support around upcoming changes to employment regulations and to discuss this in more detail, contact the team at Embrace HR via www.embracehr.co.uk 

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