The Government has published a consultation paper on extending legal protection for pregnant women and new parents. This will include protection from redundancy for women during pregnancy, women who have returned to work after maternity leave, and new parents.
Alongside this, the consultation will also seek views on whether this protection should be extended to others taking similar leave, such as adoption leave and shared parental leave.
This follows the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices and a 2016 report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) which stated that pregnant women and new mothers continue to feel forced out of work.
Sarah Begley of The Wilkes Partnership considers the possible outcome and the impact this could have on future Pregnancy and Maternity rights.
Under current regulations, in a redundancy situation, employers have an obligation to offer women on maternity a “suitable alternative vacancy” where one is available, giving women on maternity priority over others who are also at risk of redundancy. Failing to comply with this obligation will be an automatically unfair dismissal. However, this provision ends when an individual returns to work.
The consultation paper seeks views on whether protection should be extended throughout pregnancy giving an enhanced period of protection to six months following a return to work. The rationale behind this is that it would allow sufficient time for an employee to re-establish themselves in the workplace following their maternity leave. The government is also consulting over whether this same protection should be offered to those returning to work from other similar forms of leave (for example, adoption leave and shared parental leave) and whether more guidance is required on the rights of pregnant women and new mothers.
The deadline for responses is 5 April 2019.
Sarah Begley explains that “The proposals made are simply to extend rights so that they begin when a woman informs her employer that she is pregnant and continues to apply for six months after her return. If and when brought into force, this would not stop an employer from making an employee redundant when she was pregnant, on maternity leave, or recently returned. It would simply mean that if the employer did so, and had suitable alternative work available, then they would be obliged to offer her that alternative work.
With consultation due to close in April 2019 and no date for the implementation of any change, employers are not faced with an immediate change to the current system. However, polices should be reviewed in due course and at the very least employers need to be mindful that they are complying with the current rules.
For any further guidance on this issue or any other employment related matter, please contact a member of the Employment Team at The Wilkes Partnership LLP. Alternatively email us at [email protected].