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Education focus: which proposed employment and education law changes will survive the general election?

Parliament has been dissolved ahead of the general election. Public bills can't be carried over from one parliament to another and any work that wasn't finalised in the short ‘wash up’ period will be lost. 

2024 was set to be a busy year for employment law changes. Some of these are already in place and others were due to come into force later this year or next. 

This blog explains what has been saved, what hasn't and what might come into force after the election.

What legislation has been saved? 

Changing employment terms ‘fire and rehire’

Back in 2022, the government announced that a new statutory Code of Practice would be published on the use of ‘fire and rehire’ practices to bring about changes to employees' terms and conditions of employment. That Code was published earlier this year and will apply in situations where employers:

  • are considering making changes to the terms and conditions of their staff; and
  • envisage that if their staff don't agree to proposed changes, it may dismiss them and either re-engage them on new terms or engage new workers on the new terms.

The Code will apply to all employers and to changes that may impact a small number of staff. However, it doesn't apply to genuine redundancy situations (as defined by law). 

The Code was saved during the wash up period and will come into force on 18 July 2024

However, provisions which would have allowed tribunals to uplift compensation by up to 25% where an employer unreasonably failed to comply with the Code, which were also expected to come into force on 18 July 2024, were not included in the wash up and won't now take effect unless they are picked up by the incoming government. 

Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act 2024 

The Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Bill received Royal Assent during the wash up and is now the Paternity Leave (Bereavement) Act 2024

It will require a commencement order to be brought into force as well as regulations setting out the detail. Once fully implemented, it will provide: 

  • Leave (possibly up to 52 weeks) for partners and fathers where the mother has died in the first year after birth or adoption. A bereaved parent of an adopted child or intended parent of a child born through a surrogacy arrangement, will also fall within the scope of the new provisions.
  • The usual 26-week qualifying period for paternity leave won't apply in these circumstances and the stipulation that a parent who has taken shared parental leave can't subsequently take paternity leave will also be removed. 

This Act has cross-party support and we would expect these measures to be implemented, whichever party forms the next government.  

Where does that leave legislation that needed commencement orders or regulations before it came fully into force? 

There are a couple of pieces of legislation that were passed (and are already Acts of Parliament) but don't yet have dates when they will come into force. These are: 

  1. The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 which will allow some workers to ask their employer for a more predictable working pattern including the right to work for a certain number of hours, or on particular days of the week. The right will apply to workers engaged under fixed term contracts of less than 12 months. Employers will be able to turn down requests if they have a business reason for doing so on broadly the same grounds that apply to the right to turn down flexible working requests.  
  2. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act will give employed parents whose newborn baby is admitted to neonatal care the right to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, in addition to any other leave they are entitled to.  

It will be up to the new government to decide how quickly these measures will come into force and to introduce regulations which set out the details of how these will work. 

What has fallen by the wayside? 

A number of Bills which had moved past the first reading won't now progress including:

These were all private member's bills. 

What happens to consultations that were launched before parliament was dissolved?

There are a number of consultations which the government started which are either ongoing or are waiting for a governmental response. These include: 

  • Reintroducing employment tribunal fees. A consultation closed in March and has not yet been responded to.
  • Limiting the duration of non-compete clauses in employment contracts. A consultation closed last year and the government said that intended to limit the duration of non-compete clauses to three months. No further updates have been announced.
  • Reforming fit notes to support those with long-term health conditions access work and health support. That consultation ends on Monday 8 July 2024.
  • Reforming TUPE to specify that only employees are protected (rather than a wider class of workers) on transfers and to eliminate the need to divide employees' contracts among multiple employers where a business transfers to more than one entity. That consultation ends on 11 July 2024.

In the context of education:

  • Extending the minimum service strike laws to the education sector. The government launched a consultation in November 2023 but has not yet responded to it.  
  • Improving child safeguarding in schools and colleges. The consultation closes on 20 June 2024. 
  • Introducing new guidance on gender questioning children. The consultation ended on 12 March 2024 but has not yet been responded to.
  • Introducing age limits for the teaching of relationships, sex and health education and banning teaching gender identity theory. The consultation ends on 11 July 2024.

The consultations will continue to run (and can be extended beyond the original timeframe). Civil servants will then consider the responses and will put proposals to the incoming government who will decide how to respond. So, as with many of these proposals, much will depend on which party forms the new government. 

We may know more once the main political parties have published their manifestos.

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