Redundancy protection for pregnant women to be extended

The government is planning to extend the legal protections against redundancy by six months for new mothers returning to work, subject to further consultation 

Pregnant women and new mothers could receive up to two years of legal protection against redundancy, with new protections being extended for an additional six months after their return to work.

The move comes in response to a government consultation which found that new parents continue to face unfair discrimination. Research estimated that up to 54,000 women a year felt they had to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal, and those on maternity leave have special protection in a redundancy situation. The proposed reforms will extend the existing redundancy protection for six months from the date of a mother’s return to work as well as covering those taking adoption or shared parental leave.

The government has said it will go ahead with the six-month extension after a period of further consultation with stakeholders to develop a workable solution and plans to bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows.

Those taking adoption leave will receive the same protections as those on maternity leave, although BEIS said that ‘the practical and legal differences between shared parental leave and maternity leave may mean that it will require a different approach. Further guidance on this will be issued in due course’.

Peninsula associate director of advisory, Kate Palmer said: ‘Although the government is yet to announce when these developments will become law, this represents a significant leap forward in affording additional rights to working parents.

‘Going forward, employers are going to have to take this into account when faced with a redundancy and should be fully aware of the legal expectations already upon them in these situations. That said, how these commitments will be adopted into the law is yet to be confirmed and we still do not know how this will work in practice for those on shared parental leave. I would highly advise employers to keep fully up to date with all developments in this area as they come.’

The announcements are part of the government’s Good Work Plan which aims to improve working conditions and reflect the changing face of the working environment with the growth of gig jobs and use of zero-hour contracts.

There are also proposed new leave entitlements for parents of sick and premature babies.

The plan is also to introduce corporate reporting requirements to ensure large businesses are more transparent about their policies on parental leave, pay and flexible working.

Kelly Tolhurst, minister for small business, said: ‘There is no place for discrimination against new parents in the modern workplace. It is unacceptable that new parents continue to feel they are treated unfairly and the government is determined to put an end to this.

‘The reforms will better protect new parents, giving them the peace of mind to manage the return to work while also caring for a new child.’

The government has also announced that a new taskforce made up of employer and family groups will be established to develop an action plan on what further steps government and other organisations can take to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work. It will also make recommendations on raising awareness of employer obligations and employee rights.

Research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2016 found that one in nine women said they had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

This move goes further than current EU requirements on maternity entitlements and parental leave.

Sara White | 26-07-2019

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