The Government have recently consulted on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents. Currently under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999, women that are selected for redundancy whilst on maternity leave must be given priority when the employer offers suitable alternative employment.
What is being proposed:
- Extend this right to women who have returned from maternity leave in the previous six months;
- Consider extending this to women who have informed their employer that they are pregnant;
- Consider extending this right to those on adoption leave, shared parental leave and longer periods of parental leave.
The key purpose of this enhanced protection against redundancy for women on maternity leave is to help tackle discrimination and to change the culture which can exist around mothers and the workplace.
In addition to the protection against redundancy, women also receive protection under the Equality Act 2010 which sets out a ‘protected period’ during which women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are explicitly protected from discrimination. However, the statistics suggest that the current protections are insufficient. Research in 2016 found that 54,000 women per year are pushed out of their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity leave, this includes being dismissed, being made redundant or being treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job.
As an employer you need to ensure you take every precaution with a pregnant employee, or an employee on maternity leave, even if you do have genuine reasons for dismissal. Although you may have genuine reasons for selecting an employee on maternity leave for redundancy, you must ensure that you follow the correct procedure and remember the enhanced protection for women on maternity leave. As an example, the Employment Tribunal found in Mrs S White v Newcastle Premier Health Ltd that although the reason for dismissing the claimant was redundancy, it was found to be materially influenced by the fact the claimant was on maternity leave and was therefore a breach of section 39(2)(c) of the Equality Act.
If a situation of this kind should arise you should always seek legal advice from an Employment specialist before taking action. At FTA Law we can offer advice on all aspects of an employer’s duties towards their employees. Please contact us on 0330 088 2275 for further information.
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