On 15 February we reported on the Government's consultation paper to collect opinions on plans to extend the protections from redundancy and discrimination for women on maternity leave and other expectant parents. The consultation closed on 5 April and the Government published its response on 22 July 2019 and they have confirmed that they will be implementing the changes "when Parliamentary time allows"…
When on maternity leave, if a women is at risk of redundancy her employer must offer her a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available. They must prioritise her over other employees also at risk of redundancy.
This protection also applies during adoption leave, shared parental leave and paternity leave.
The Government has confirmed that it will legislate to extend redundancy protection so that it applies from the point at which an employee notifies her employer of her pregnancy, orally or in writing, until six months after her return to work. The protection will also be extended for those on adoption leave.
The Government also intend to improve the protection from redundancy afforded to those returning from shared parental leave, however it has not yet established how this will work in practice. As shared parental leave may only last for a few weeks, a six month protection period would not be proportionate. For the same reason, the Government does not intend to extend the protection at all for those who have been on paternity leave, which is limited to two weeks.
Finally, the Government has confirmed that it intends to establish a taskforce of employer and family representative groups to consider how to improve the information available to employers and families on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. They will also consider how to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work.
Employers should continue to refer to ACAS guidance on how to comply with the current legislation, which by way of reminder includes the following pointers:
A point to note about the intended changes, is that pregnant women will be protected from the point at which they notify their employers of their pregnancies. This may be orally rather than in writing. Employers will therefore need some means to record these conversations so that it is clear at what time the protection has begun.