Enhanced redundancy protections for pregnant women and new parents

French Duncan | 31 July 2019

Last month the government announced plans to extend the legal protections already in place by a further 6 months. This means new parents could receive up to 2 years of legal protection from redundancy, with the additional 6 months being effective from the date they return to work.

The new protections will also include parents returning from adoption leave and shared parental leave, and builds on the reforms proposed in the Government’s Good Work Plan. The enhanced protections were effective from 22nd July 2019.

While adoption leave has been included in the initial announcement, further consultation may mean that this ends up with slightly different treatment than maternity leave. Parents of sick and premature babies may also receive new entitlements to additional leave.

The move comes in response to a government consultation which found that new parents continue to face unfair discrimination in the workplace. The research estimates that up to 54,000 women per year felt they had to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination. In 2016, research for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed one in nine women had been made redundant or dismissed after returning from maternity leave, or were made to feel so uncomfortable they felt they had no option but to resign.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal, and employees on maternity leave currently have special protection in a redundancy situation.  The enhanced protections are in a bid to ensure new parents are further protected from discrimination in the workplace.

The move comes alongside other measures designed to support working parents, all as part of the Good Work Plan. Further proposals include new leave entitlements for parents of sick and premature babies, and proposed new measures to ensure large organisations are more transparent in their policies for parental leave and pay. The changes, however, have yet to be legislated.

In addition to these new measures, the government also plans to set up a new taskforce, comprised of both employers and family groups to develop an action plan on what further steps can be taken to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work. The workforce will also aim to raise awareness of employer obligations and employee rights.

With shifting practices in how people work nowadays, these new measures aim to ensure employment practices keep pace with changes whilst also ensuring employment protection.

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