New protection for pregnant employees in a redundancy situation?
The Government has announced that it is backing the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, a Private Members’ Bill. The Bill will provide pregnant women and new parents with greater protection in a redundancy situation.
Currently, a woman on maternity leave is entitled, if her role is being made redundant, to be offered alternative employment in any suitable vacancy available. This includes a vacancy with an associated employer. This gives an employee on maternity leave priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy. If the employer does not comply with this obligation, the employee would have a potential claim for automatic unfair dismissal and pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Similar provisions apply for employees on adoption or shared parental leave.
The Government had previously indicated its commitment to extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents. This included ensuring that the redundancy protection period would apply from the point the employee notifies the employer that she is pregnant, and would then extend for six months after the new mother has returned to work. Similar commitments apply to extending the redundancy protection into a period of six months after a return to work from adoption and shared parental leave.
The Queen’s Speech in 2019 included an Employment Bill, which included the introduction of an extension to redundancy protection. However, the Employment Bill was not introduced in the 2019 – 21 Parliamentary session and was not referred to in the 2021 or 2022 Queen’s Speeches.
The Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill would give the Secretary of State the power to extend current redundancy protection currently offered to women during maternity leave. The protection would cover a longer period of time, applying during, or after, maternity leave. The Bill would also give the power to expand protections for employees returning from adoption or shared parental leave.
The Bill also adds a new provision allowing for redundancy protection during, or after, a ‘protected period of pregnancy’. The Bill allows regulations to provide for the protected period of pregnancy to commence after the pregnancy has ended. The explanatory notes state that this is to allow, for example, a woman who has miscarried before informing her employer of her pregnancy to benefit from the redundancy protection.
The Bill itself does not set out any detail of any protections that future regulations could set out. The Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons with government support on 21 October 2022.
15 November 2022
If you would like to receive monthly employment law updates and news of our events, sign up for our email alerts.
©2022 SCRASE LAW LTD. THIS POST IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND IS NOT ADVICE. YOU ARE RECOMMENDED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION ON THE BASIS OF THIS POST