Hello and welcome to our latest employment video for 2019. My name’s Paul Griffin and I’m Head of the Norton Rose Fulbright Employment Team in London.
Taking its lead from key issues raised in the Taylor Review, and a report by the Woman and Equalities Select Committee, in January this year the Government published a review of the current protections on pregnancy and maternity, and consulted on its proposals for change.
The Government response to the consultation was published in July, and its proposals are the subject of today’s video.
Under current law, redundancy protection is provided to employees during statutory maternity leave only. During this period, if a redundancy situation arises, any suitable alternative vacancy must be offered to the employee on maternity leave, without the need for an application or interview. The new contract must begin immediately after the existing position comes to an end.
In its report, the Women and Equalities Select Committee concluded that, in order to tackle the issue of maternity discrimination, additional protection is required for new and expectant mothers throughout pregnancy, maternity leave and for six months after their return to work.
In light of this, and other evidence that new mothers are being forced out of work when they seek to return after maternity leave, the Government consultation sought views on whether an extension of the existing redundancy protection would help address the issue.
They proposed that the existing period of redundancy protection should start when the employee informs the employer of her pregnancy, and should continue until the end of six months after her return to work.
The consultation also asked for views as to whether this protection should be extended to parents returning from other forms of parental leave.
The Government consultation closed in April and the Government published its response in July.
They’ve now confirmed that they intend to introduce legislation to extend the existing redundancy protection period so that it starts from the point of notification of the pregnancy – whether given in writing or not – and lasts until the end of the period of six months following the end of maternity leave.
The six month period begins to run once the maternity leave period has come to an end - even if the employee doesn’t physically return to work at that time because she’s taken other leave, such as holiday or parental leave.
It’s worth noting, however, that what’s changing is not the right to the protection itself, just the period of time for which the existing protection lasts.
It will remain possible to lawfully make someone redundant during the extended period of protection, as long as the decision isn’t made for discriminatory reasons, and any suitable alternative vacancy available has been offered to the employee first.
A similar extension of protection is to be provided for returners from adoption leave, given the existing similarities between the two types of leave.
The Government will also legislate to provide protection from redundancy for a period after return from shared parental leave – but will consult further on the details given the differences between shared parental leave and other types of family leave. For example, it’s possible to take shared parental leave in more than one block – so there may be various return dates.
The Government has decided not to introduce additional protection for paternity returners because the limited duration of statutory paternity leave – which is only two weeks at present - doesn’t justify additional protection.
There’s no precise timescale yet for introduction of the new redundancy protections – merely an indication that the rights will be introduced “when Parliamentary time allows”. So this could be some months off yet!
This video is intended to provide you with a summary of the Government’s latest plans on extending redundancy protection.
We shall of course let you know when there are any further developments, but if you’d like any more information, or have any questions on any aspect of today’s topic, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.