Extended redundancy protection for women and new parents.

Before making a woman on maternity leave redundant, an employer must offer her a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available, with the employer or an associated employer.  This gives women on maternity leave enhanced protection against redundancy during the maternity leave period.

The Government  opened a consultation earlier this year on whether redundancy protection should be extended for women and new parents once they have returned to work.

The Government has now published a response to the consultation. In the response, the Government has committed to:

  • Ensuring that the redundancy protection period applies from the point the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether orally or in writing;
  • Extending the redundancy protection period for six months once a new mother has returned to work;
  • Extending the redundancy protection into a period of six months after return to work for those taking adoption leave;
  • Extending redundancy protection into a period of return to work for those taking shared parental leave; and
  • Establishing a taskforce of employer and family representative groups.  The taskforce will make recommendations on what improvements can be made to the information available to employers and families on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.  It will also develop an action plan on what steps the Government and other organisations can take to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work.

The Government will also consult on changing Employment Tribunal time limits for claims relating to discrimination, harassment and victimisation, including on the ground of pregnancy and maternity.

As noted in the response, evidence by the Women and Equalities Select Committee found that once new mothers return from maternity leave, some were being forced out of work.  The period of time after a return to work is not covered by current enhanced protections.  This consultation and response aim to address this issue.

The Government has stated that it is determined to take action to address pregnancy and maternity discrimination.  It is not clear, however, when these changes will take effect.  The response states that the Government will “look to bring forward legislation when Parliamentary time allows”.

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