Extending Redundancy Protection For Women And New Parents: Government Responds to Consultation

In our January 2019 newsletter we addressed the consultation published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) titled “Pregnancy and maternity discrimination: extending redundancy protection for women and new parents”. Within this consultation the BEIS proposed to the government that women and new mothers who have recently returned to work should be provided with the same redundancy protection as those on maternity leave.

Currently, the law only provides redundancy protection to women on maternity leave in that an employer must offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available with the employer, or an associated employer. This gives women on maternity leave priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy.  Within their consultation, BEIS proposed that this protection should apply from the date an employee notifies the employer in writing of her pregnancy, to six months after her return from maternity leave. The consultation also went on to ask whether this protection should be extended to similar types of leave, such as adoption leave and shared parental leave.  

The government has now published its response to the consultation.

In its response, the government has committed to take action “when Parliamentary time allows”, and commits to:

  • “Ensure the redundancy protection period applies from the point the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether orally or in writing.”
  • “Extend the redundancy protection period for six months once a new mother has returned to work.” The government expects that this period will start immediately once maternity leave is finished.
  • “Extend redundancy protection into a period of return to work for those taking adoption leave following the same approach as the extended protection being provided for those returning from maternity leave – it will be for six months.”
  • “Extend redundancy protection into a period of return to work for those taking shared parental leave, taking account of the following key principles and issues:
    • The key objective of this policy is to help protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination;
    • The practical and legal differences between shared parental leave and maternity leave mean that it will require a different approach;
    • The period of extended protection should be proportionate to the amount of leave and the threat of discrimination;
    • A mother should be no worse off if she curtails her maternity leave and then takes a period of Shared Parental Leave;
    • The solution should not create any disincentives to take Shared Parental Leave.”
  • “Establish 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 Government and other organisations can take to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work.”

These changes may not be implemented for some time as the government is going to address the Government Equalities Office’s (GEO’s) consultation regarding workplace sexual harassment later this year, and therefore, it may be the case that a new package of reforms will be put together at a later stage.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any other aspect of employment law on 029 2034 5511 or at employment@berrysmith.com.