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Women on maternity leave have the right to be offered suitable alternative vacancies, where available, in order to avoid redundancy and they don’t need to take part in a selection process. ‘Suitable alternative employment’ in this context is work that is suitable and appropriate for the employee to do and where the capacity, place of employment and other terms and conditions are not substantially less favourable than the outgoing role.
This gives the woman priority over other at-risk employees during a redundancy procedure. However, protection is limited when the employee returns to work after their maternity leave ends.
Research in 2016 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggested that 3 in 4 mothers had a negative or discriminatory experience during pregnancy, maternity leave and/or upon their return to work. There are reports of women being forced out of their jobs following their return from maternity leave, including reports of redundancy when redundancies were not happening elsewhere in the business and loss of employment due to employers not agreeing to requests for flexible working.
Following this research, the Government invited consultation on extending protection to employees returning from maternity leave as well as those who take adoption and shared parental leave. The Government also proposed new plans to help deal with discrimination more effectively.
What is the consultation proposing?
BEIS has recently published the Government’s response to the consultation. The Government has committed to:
- Ensuring that redundancy protection applies from the point that the employee informs her employer that she is pregnant, whether verbally or in writing.
- Extending redundancy protection for six months after the employee returns to work after maternity leave. This protection will also be afforded to employees returning from adoption leave; and
- Extending redundancy protection to those employees who take shared parental leave for a period of time yet to be decided.
When will the redundancy protection for new parents come into force?
Unfortunately, it is not yet clear when the new protection will come into force. The Government’s commitments were made under a different Prime Minister so it remains to be seen when these significant changes will become law. We will be sure to provide regular and timely updates when they are available.
How we can help you prepare for these changes?
At some point in the future, the proposed changes will almost certainly come into force. To help you get a head start on these changes and ensure your business is legally compliant, let us assist your business by reviewing and advising you on your current policies and procedures so you’re prepared for when these changes are made. For help implementing these changes, or for more information on any of the topics discussed in this article, please email Nick Wilson, partner in our employment law team, by emailing Nick.Wilson@andrewjackson.co.uk or speak to one of the team today by calling 01482 325242.
If you’re interested in learning more about other crucial changes to employment law in 2019, including updates to statutory payments for maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave, please click here to read our previous article by Andrew Jackson Head of Employment, Jonathan Dale.