Proposals announced to enhance protections available to parents returning to work
The Government launched a consultation on Friday 25th January 2019 with regards to proposals aimed at giving greater protection against redundancy to pregnant women and new mothers.
The law currently provides that, if a woman on maternity leave is selected for redundancy, she is entitled to be given priority over other redundant employees to any suitable alternative positions that are available.
The consultation recommends extending this right to women who have told their employer that they are pregnant and also to women who have returned from maternity leave in the previous six months.
The proposals take their lead from key issues raised in the Women and Equalities Select Committee 2016 report into pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The report highlighted that discrimination against women due to pregnancy or maternity leave has steadily increased, with more women being made redundant or feeling forced to leave their job than a decade ago.
The report drew extensively from research commissioned in 2016 by the Department for Business Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace which made a number of findings including:
– 50% of mothers reported a negative impact on their career, as a result of their pregnancy;
– 1 in 9 mothers reported that had been dismissed or made redundant when returning to work after having a child or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job;
– 1 in 5 five mothers said they had experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer.
Of the Government’s proposals, Prime Minister, Theresa May has said “It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work. [Today’s] proposals are set to provide greater protection for new parents in the workplace and put their minds at ease at this important time.”
As well as the headline proposals, the Government is also consulting on measures to provide the same redundancy protection to parents returning from adoption leave or shared parental leave.
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against expectant and new mothers from the start of a pregnancy until the woman returns to work after maternity leave, or two weeks after the end of pregnancy if the woman is not entitled to maternity leave. During this period – referred to as the “protected period” – a woman is protected from discrimination due to her pregnancy, any pregnancy related illness or for taking or seeking to take maternity leave. In addition (as already mentioned), under the Maternity and Parental Leave Etc Regulations 1999, before making an employee on maternity leave redundant, employers have an obligation to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available.
None of these protections are currently afforded to adoptive parents or to those taking shared parental leave – something that the Government proposes to change.
Responses to the consultation are sought by 5 April 2019. Why not share your views on the new proposals – do you think more protection is needed in the workplace for parents returning from leave? How would the proposals affect your business?
Please leave a comment below.
This article was written and researched by Miranda Amos, Solicitor at our Salisbury Office. Miranda advises clients across Hampshire, Wiltshire and Nationwide.
Miranda is the firms expert on maternity, pregnancy and parental rights. If you have any questions or concerns about the proposed changes or any issues in your business please do get in touch with Miranda directly!
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