5 July 2023 by Susanna Spencer

Greater redundancy protection for pregnant women and staff returning from family leave

Under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, employees on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave who are selected for redundancy must be offered any available suitable alternative employment ahead of other employees. Failure to comply with this duty entitles the affected employee to claim that any resulting dismissal was automatically unfair.

However, neither pregnant women nor employees returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave are protected in this way, and they are instead reliant on proving an unlawful detriment or discrimination claim if they wish to bring a legal challenge. This can result in situations where employers seek to avoid their obligations regarding suitable alternative employment by delaying redundancy exercises until an employee returns from family leave.

This is set to change under new law. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 is due to come into force on 24 July 2023. Separate regulations will be implemented setting out the detail. The following changes are anticipated:

  • pregnant women at risk of redundancy will be prioritised when offering suitable alternative employment from the point they inform their employer about their pregnancy;
  • employees returning from maternity / adoption leave at risk of redundancy will be prioritised when offering suitable alternative employment for a period of time following their return to work (anticipated to be six months for maternity / adoption leave but likely less for those returning from shared parental leave);
  • where an employer fails to comply with its duty to offer suitable alternative employment in such circumstances, employees would have the right to bring claims for automatic unfair dismissal.

The changes will result in a considerably increased period of protection for employees taking maternity leave.

For example, a woman who informs her employer about her pregnancy early on could receive prioritisation in terms of suitable alternative employment for over 2 years in total. This is in contrast with the current position of 12 months prioritisation for the period of maternity leave only.

The detail of the new law (including the exact time periods of protection) will be set out in regulations in due course, with the actual changes in the law not anticipated to come into play until 2024. Therefore, we would recommend employers are on standby and ready to update family policies and any HR training accordingly.

It is worth noting that, unlike in some countries, there is no blanket ban on making employees who are pregnant or on family leave redundant, and this will remain the case under the new law. However, a fair process must be followed, with employers ensuring that such employees are not selected for redundancy simply due to their pregnancy or family leave.

If you require any assistance for your business with handling redundancy exercises, or issues relating to maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our expert Employment team.

22 June 2023 by Melanie Carroll

Innovative Lending and Mortgages – What’s new?

Mortgages have been in the press recently.  The main focus has been the increase in interest rates, causing a headache […]

29 June 2023 by

Renters (Reform) Bill

The Government introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill to Parliament on 17 May 2023 and it follows the White Paper, “A […]

Signup To Our Weekly e-News

"*" indicates required fields

We’ll never share your details with any third party in line with our privacy policy.