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Protection for Pregnant Women and New Parents from Redundancy

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UK Government backs new law to increase protection for pregnant women and new parents from redundancy

Is your company considering redundancies?  Don’t miss this latest update which may render your decision to make an employee automatically unfair, and potentially discriminatory in the future.

At a time where the economy is sinking, inflation and interest rates are rising, many companies are considering making part of their workforce redundant to save money. 

However, employers should be careful if considering redundancies in the future that they don’t make this mistake, which would cost them more money, stress and time.

It’s not a surprise that pregnant women and new parents are protected to a certain extent from redundancy.  However, the UK Government are backing a new law which bolsters those rights of pregnant women and new parents, beyond the current protected periods.  See here for further details:

Currently, women on maternity leave benefit from higher levels of protection from redundancy, in the event that their role is placed at risk of redundancy.  An employer must offer ‘first dibs’ on any suitable alternative role to that employee who is on maternity leave.  This protected period currently applies throughout the maternity leave period, which is up to 12 months.  The same applies to employees on Adoption, and Shared Parental Leave.

The UK Government has announced its support to the Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Bill.  If this legislation is introduced, the protected period will extend beyond an employee’s maternity leave for an additional six months, from the end of the maternity leave period.  Essentially, the employee’s protected period is a total of 18 months, beginning on the first day of maternity leave. 

The Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Bill would also apply to other new parents, such as those on Adoption, and Shared Parental Leave.  Employees on Adoption, and Shared Parental Leave would also benefit from an 18-month protected period, beginning on the first day of their respective leave.   

If the Bill is made into legislation, the protected period would be extended past when the employee has returned to work.  As an employer, you may inadvertently select an employee to be made redundant because of their pregnancy, childbirth, or the fact that she chose to take maternity leave, even if that was not your intention.  You may also make this decision within the protected period, failing to offer ‘first dibs’ on a suitable alternative role without realising your obligations.  This would result in an automatically unfair dismissal, and potential discrimination.

Employers should be mindful of the potential ramifications of getting it wrong in redundancy.  An automatically unfair dismissal could cost an employer a year of the employee’s salary, or £93,878, whichever is lower.

If a tribunal finds that the employer has been discriminatory, then there is no cap to the damages which the employer may have to pay.

At a time where the economic and financial viability of companies are uncertain, it would be a substantial risk to make decisions without first considering the advice of a specialist.  Speak to one of our team in the Employment Law Department to help guide you through the redundancy process, ensuring that your company does not fall into the pitfalls surrounding redundancy.  Contact us on 02392 660261, or at