The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill: Enhanced protection for pregnant women and new parents
Today, Monday 17 April 2023, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill (Bill) is at the Committee Stage in the House of Lords. The Bill relates to protection from redundancy during or after pregnancy or after periods of maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.
Under the current regulations, regulation 10 of the Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations 1999 (MAT Regs) stipulates that employers have an obligation to offer suitable alternative employment, where a vacancy exists, to a parent who is on maternity leave if their job becomes at risk of redundancy. The current protection is limited to the duration of the maternity leave and offers no protection once the employee has returned to work. Parents on adoption or shared parental leave are also currently awarded the same protection under the Paternity and Adoption Leave Regulations 2002 (PAL Regs) and the Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 (SPL Regs) respectively.
The new rule proposed under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill is that the period of protection from redundancy is extended to protect pregnant employees from the moment they inform their employer of their pregnancy until their child reaches 18 months. The Bill also provides protection to parents taking adoption or shared parental leave whilst on leave and for a period of 18 months after their return.
If an employee is dismissed by reason of redundancy in breach of the MAT Regs, PAL Regs or SPL Regs their dismissal will be automatically unfair. However, according to a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, three in four working mothers experience maternity discrimination. The study also estimates that around 54,000 employees lose their jobs yearly because they are pregnant. It is hoped that the Bill will help curb the discrimination experienced by new parents.
Whilst it is unknown when the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill will come into force, it is unlikely that it will be implemented before the end of 2024.
Advice for employers
Employers who face a potential redundancy situation should ensure that they are currently acting in accordance with the current relevant regulations by:
- Giving careful consideration to the selection pool, ensuring that the reason for selection is unrelated to an employee being a parent;
- Offering suitable alternative employment to those on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, where such a vacancy exists, over other potentially redundant employees. The alternative employment offered must be suitable and appropriate for the employee to do and on terms that are not substantially less favourable than under their previous terms;
- If no suitable alternative vacancy exists, an employee’s absences connected with pregnancy, maternity, adoption and shared parental leave should be disregarded when scoring an employee on attendance; and
- Ensuring that the necessary consultations are appropriately conducted and any suggestions as an alternative to redundancy put forward by an employee is carefully considered.
It is advisable for employers to have in place policies relating to maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave so that new parents are not inadvertently subjected to other forms of potential discrimination.
If you have any questions related to the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, or any other employment law related issues, then contact our specialist employment team today. Call 01752 203500 or email me directly via Kayleigh.arthurs@GAsolicitors.com.