Protection From Redundancy After Maternity Leave: 2023 Update
Pregnancy is a time of great joy, but it can also be a time of uncertainty for women in the workplace. Pregnant employees may face discrimination, and they may be at risk of redundancy during pregnancy. In response to this, the UK government has proposed new rules that are set to extend protections for pregnant employees against redundancy.
Under current legislation, employers have an obligation to offer suitable alternative employment, where a vacancy exists, to a parent who is on maternity leave if their job is at risk of redundancy. At present, this protection only applies for the duration of the maternity leave; however, under the proposed new rules, this period of protection from redundancy after maternity leave would be extended until the child reaches 18 months old.
The implications of the protection from redundancy after maternity leave are far-reaching and could have a significant impact on both employers and employees. For employers, the extended period of protection could potentially mean more difficulty in managing costs and workforce size during periods of economic uncertainty. On the other hand, employees will benefit from increased job security during a critical period in their lives when they are often juggling work with caring for a young baby.
It is worth noting that the proposed new rules will provide more security and peace of mind to employees, but they could also create some challenges. For example, employers may face difficulties in finding suitable alternative roles due to the extended period of protection from redundancy after maternity leave.
Additionally, it is possible that the changes could lead to a decrease in job flexibility for some employees during maternity leave, as their employer may be less willing to grant requests to work reduced hours or take unpaid leave.
The proposed new rules aim to provide more support and protection to pregnant employees, as well as ensure that employers follow a fair process when making redundancies. Under the new rules, pregnant employees will be given additional protection during the redundancy process. This means that they will be given priority over other employees who are not pregnant or on maternity leave when it comes to being offered suitable alternative employment within the company.
Employers will also be required to undertake a specific risk assessment for employees at risk of redundancy during pregnancy. This assessment will take into account the particular needs and circumstances of pregnant employees and will ensure that they are not unfairly treated during the redundancy process. This could include providing additional support, such as flexible working arrangements or time off for antenatal appointments.
Additionally, the proposed new rules will require employers to consult with pregnant employees before making them redundant.
Currently, employers are required to consult with employees who are at risk of redundancy, but there is no specific requirement to consult with those at risk of redundancy during pregnancy. Under the new rules, employers will have to consult with pregnant employees in the same way as they would with any other employee who is at risk of redundancy.
The proposed new rules are a welcome step towards providing more support and protection to pregnant employees. They will help to ensure that pregnant employees are not unfairly targeted during the redundancy process and that they are given the support and protection they need during this uncertain time. Employers will need to ensure that they are fully compliant with the new rules and that they take all necessary steps to support and protect their pregnant employees.
The proposed changes to extend protections for employees against redundancy and pregnant employees in particular are being introduced through the UK government’s legislative process. It is a lengthy process firstly, but the proposed changes have been finalised and we are currently waiting for the bill to be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it receives Royal Assent from the monarch, at which point it will become law.
The UK government is committed to introducing these changes as soon as possible to provide greater support and protection to vulnerable workers such as pregnant employees.
If you are a business owner or employer seeking advice on ‘extended periods of protection for employees on maternity’ ahead of the new legislation, HR:4UK is here for you.
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A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.