In the Queen’s Speech in December, at the state opening of Parliament, around 40 new laws were revealed that will be brought in over the coming months. The Queen said the UK Government would 'bring forward measures to support working families' including support for flexible working, extending unpaid carers’ leave entitlement, extending redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination and extending leave for neonatal care. Let’s take a look at each of these areas, in further detail below.

Consulting on making flexible working the default position

The UK Government is proposing to consult on flexible working by default, unless employers have a good reason not to allow this. This is a move away from a previous proposal to have a duty to consider flexible working in advertising. This potential positioning is likely to be more inclusive for new and existing employees and sends a positive message that flexible working should be the norm for everyone.

However, some potential challenges that will need to be worked through will be in relation to the definitions that are used to describe flexible working, ensuring that there is two-way flexibility and that there is some fluidity in the arrangement. It’s also important to ensure that organisations don’t take a superficial tick box approach to their default flexible position and that such legal change is properly supported by culture change throughout organisations. The government also looks set to take forward proposals to improve transparency around flexible working. See our consultation response.

The government is due to consult on flexible working by default in the coming months and the CIPD will consult with members to put in a practical and evidence-based response.

One week's additional leave for unpaid carers

The government is also proposing to introduce one week’s additional leave for working carers, although this is likely to be unpaid. In the CIPD’s Workplace Manifesto 2020 we have called for the introduction of five days paid carers leave. We think that paid leave will help to ease the financial burden and stress that many carers face.

The CIPD will be launching research with Sheffield University and practical guidance for organisations on supporting working carers in the next few months, so watch this space.

Extending redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination

In January 2019 the government launched a paper asking for employer, business, and parents’ views on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents. In its response, the CIPD conducted a survey to investigate how useful existing guidance for employers and people professionals is, and whether there are any gaps (see consultation response below). The government now looks set to extend redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and discrimination at work.

The CIPD welcomes the extension of redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination. It’s shocking that research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found one in nine women had been fired or made redundant when returning to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced to leave.

There are wider and serious implications associated with the continued discrimination against pregnant women and women returning to work, not least of which is how it’s contributing to the gender pay gap which is damaging for individuals, business and the wider economy. We need concerted action on a number of fronts to stamp out discrimination and active promotion of gender equality policies such as flexible working regardless of level and role. See our responses to two UK Government consultations.

Extending leave for neonatal care

Neonatal care is provided for premature babies but also for many full-term but sick babies who can spend prolonged periods of time on a neonatal care unit in a hospital as a result of being born with congenital conditions, complications at birth, or experiencing serious health conditions shortly after birth.

Last year the government consulted on the feasibility of bringing in a new additional type of leave and pay to support parents whose babies are in neonatal care after they’re born. We responded to this consultation in full. Our Members are overwhelmingly supportive of offering extended leave for parents for neonatal care. The government now looks set to do just that. See our consultation response.

Your views matter!

Your views on policy issues are really important to us and have already helped shape the government’s approach on a number of the areas outlined above. We will be looking for further input going forward and will highlight opportunities to get involved, to ensure proposed changes are practical and will lead to positive change.


About the author

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser, Resourcing and Inclusion

Claire specialises in the areas of equality, diversity and inclusion, flexible working, resourcing and talent management. She has also conducted research into meaning and trust at work, age diversity, workplace carers and enterprise and has worked on a number of international projects. She is the author of several reports and articles and regularly presents at seminars and conferences.

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