Enhanced redundancy protection in the making for pregnant employees and new parents
The Government has backed the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill which will afford greater redundancy protection to pregnant employees and new parents returning from shared parental and adoption leave.
The proposed Bill follows an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2017 which found that 54,000 mothers each year faced discrimination at work as a result of taking maternity leave.
Currently, before offering redundancy to an employee on maternity, shared parental or adoption leave, employers are under an obligation to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists, in priority of any other employee who is provisionally selected for redundancy.
The proposed Bill will extend the existing redundancy protection so it applies also to pregnant women and new parents returning to work from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave.
Pregnant women would be protected before they take maternity leave, during and after they return to work. Protection would start from the point at which the expectant employee tells their employer that they are pregnant, during leave, and for 6 months after their return from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave.
What it means for employers
The Government believes that the proposed Bill will offer greater job security and shield new parents and pregnant employees from workplace discrimination.
Redundancy is a potentially fair reason for dismissing an employee but it will be necessary for employers to offer suitable alternative employment if it exists. Failure to do so may provide pregnant employees or new parents returning from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave with grounds to argue that their dismissal was unfair.
The period of protection being afforded is to be significantly extended under the new Bill so expectant employees will hold a priority position for around two years from the point at which they inform their employer that they are pregnant. Businesses should consider this if they are looking at restructuring and should consider whether there is suitable alternative employment within any of their group companies if these exist.
Irrespective of the extension of redundancy protection being afforded under the new Bill, an employer could still make a pregnant employee or new parent returning from shared parental or adoption leave redundant as it currently can, if there is no suitable alternative employment or other candidates are more suitable to remain within the business.
Whilst the Bill has Government backing, given the recent changes throughout the Government in recent months, there is uncertainty about when the Bill will come into effect.
If you have any queries on the changes being introduced or any other matter of employment law, please contact a member of our multi-award winning Employment Team on 0330 191 043.
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