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The Government has announced that pregnant women and new parents will receive greater protection from redundancy under proposed new legislation set out in The Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Bill.

Current law

As it stands, pregnant women have limited protection in the context of redundancies, with the most noteworthy protection only applying when the employee is on maternity leave. Essentially, workers on maternity leave have the right to be treated favourably in that, in a redundancy scenario, they have the right to be offered a suitable alternative role (if one exists), without a competitive process. An employee could also raise an automatic unfair dismissal claim if the employee was on, or was about to go on, maternity leave and the reason for the dismissal was their maternity leave. In addition, there is scope to claim unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if an employee is treated unfavourably for reasons related to pregnancy.

What protections will new parents receive under the bill?

If the new bill is implemented, it will:

  • Widen the scope of redundancy protection to pregnant women and to new parents who have recently returned to work from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave.
  • Extend the redundancy protection period so that it begins at the point that an employee informs her employer that she is pregnant and ends 18 months after the start of maternity leave. The provisions will also apply to individuals who are adopting a child or taking a period of shared parental leave.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers will still be able to make pregnant women or new parents redundant in the protection period provided:

  • There is a genuine business need to make redundancies; and
  • The employer has followed a fair process prior to making the decision to proceed with the redundancies.

As part of the fair process, all relevant employees, including pregnant women and new parents, should be part of the redundancy pool and selection criteria should be applied to determine those who will be provisionally selected for redundancy.

If a pregnant woman or new parent is selected to be considered for redundancy within the protection period, they will then have the right to be offered any available suitable alternative vacancy in priority to other employees who are not afforded the additional protection (where such a role exists).

When will the changes be implemented?

There has currently been no indication as to when the proposed new legislation will be implemented; however, we will keep you informed of any further developments and updates as they arise.

Please note that this information is for general guidance only and should not substitute professional legal advice. If you have specific concerns, we recommend consulting with one of our legal experts.


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