Scrase Law Employment Solicitors

Should redundancy protection be extended for new parents?

Under current regulations, before making a woman on maternity leave redundant, an employer has an obligation to offer her (not just invite her to apply for) a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available with the employer or an associated employer.  If an employer does not comply with this requirement, the employee will have a claim for automatically unfair dismissal.

The effect is that women on maternity leave have priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy.  The alternative vacancy must be both suitable and appropriate for the woman; and the terms and conditions must be not substantially less favourable than her previous role.  The protection applies while the woman is on ordinary or additional maternity leave.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents once they have returned to work.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination: extending redundancy protection for women and new parents” notes that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is still “far too prevalent” and that “pregnant women and new mothers continue to feel forced out of work.”  It follows on from the Women and Equalities Select Committee 2016 report into pregnancy and maternity discrimination, which showed that around one in nine mothers reported that they were either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly that they felt they had to leave their job.  In response, the Government committed to strengthening the position of women in relation to pregnancy, maternity and redundancy.  The report also follows the Government’s response to the Taylor Review of modern working practices.

The report includes the following proposals:

  • the scope of the current protection should be extended so that pregnant women and new mothers who have recently returned to work have the same protection as currently provided for those on maternity leave;
  • the protection should be extended by six months after the new mother returns to work, on the basis that this is a long enough period to allow a new mother to re-establish herself in the workplace;
  • additional protection against redundancy for pregnant women should begin on the date on which the employee notifies her employer in writing of her pregnancy.

BEIS has also sought views on whether the additional protection should be extended to employees taking other extended periods of leave, such as adoption leave, shared parental leave and longer periods of parental leave.

Comment

As stated in the report, “a key purpose of the existing enhanced protection against redundancy for women on maternity leave is to help tackle discrimination and to change the culture which can exist around mothers in the workplace”.  If implemented, these proposals would give women a longer period of protection.  However, there would still be practical questions to answer, such as how any extended redundancy protection would work with shared parental leave taken in multiple blocks. The consultation period has now closed. 

26 April 2019

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