The Government has recently responded to its consultation on extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and parents returning to work following family related leave, and has stated that it is committed to introducing new legislation to this effect “when Parliamentary time allows”.
The “commitment” is to making statutory provision to ensure that redundancy protection (in relation to suitable alternative employment) applies from the point the employee notifies the employer of her pregnancy, whether orally or in writing. Provision for an extended redundancy protection period of 6 months following a new mothers’ return to work has also been suggested.
The consultation itself followed the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices which recommended that the current legislation in place to protect those who are pregnant or on family related leave be reviewed. In terms of redundancy protections, the current legislation states that before making a woman on maternity leave redundant, an employer must offer her a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available with the employer or an associated employer. Similar provisions exist in respect of adoption and shared parental leave.
In relation to paternity leave, the Government has concluded that this form of leave doesn’t warrant any additional redundancy protection. One of the justifications for extending protection in respect of other forms of family leave is the fact that a person will have most likely been out of a business for a prolonged period of time. One of the purposes of the extended period of protection would be to ensure that employers do not make an early judgment on performance in the early days of a person returning to work after a prolonged period of absence. Paternity leave is for a maximum period of two weeks and so is not considered to be comparable form of leave for this purpose.
Although these new commitments do appear to have some genuine traction behind them, there is no date for any definitive action to be taken as yet. It may be that by the end of the year further details of the reforms will have been announced but it could even be 2020 before any changes are implemented. As and when any changes are announced, Howarths will update all clients accordingly.