Special redundancy protection to be extended to pregnant women and maternity leave returners

The Government is consulting on plans to extend the redundancy rights currently enjoyed by women on maternity leave to pregnant women and women returning to work after maternity leave. There is also a possibility of giving similar rights to parents returning to work from adoption or parental leave.

The fact that women on maternity leave are better protected against being made redundant than pregnant women or new mothers who have recently returned to work is an unexplained anomaly in UK employment law. As well as the broad protection against sex and pregnancy related discrimination which all women enjoy, mothers on maternity leave have an additional right to be considered for suitable alternative vacancies in a redundancy situation, in preference to anyone else under threat of redundancy.

The Government is now planning to create a consistent regime to protect pregnant women and new mothers by extending these special redundancy rights. The proposal is that these additional rights would apply to all mothers from the point they tell their employer they are pregnant to the end of a defined period after they return to work from maternity leave. That is likely to be six months, though the Government is consulting about the exact period.

The Government is also consider according similar rights to parents returning from other types of leave including adoption leave, parental leave and shared parental leave. Some of the issues around timing and eligibility are quite complicated for these additional types of leave. As well as seeking views through the consultation process, the Government plans to refine its thinking by using a specialist task force.

The consultation closes on 5 April 2019, but no implementation timetable has yet been published.

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