At present, before an employer can make a woman on maternity leave redundant, they must offer her a suitable alternative vacancy within the business, if one is available, in preference to other members of staff.
For some time now, the Government have been talking about extending this protection so that the same rule would apply to women from the date that they notify their employer of their pregnancy and for it to continue to apply until six months after they return to work from maternity leave. In July 2019 the Government confirmed that these new rules would be made law “when Parliamentary time allows.”
This was welcome news given that pre pandemic it was estimated that 1 in 20 women were made redundant while pregnant, on maternity leave, or on their return to work. It is thought that this equates to 54,000 women every year. Further, 77% of pregnant women and new mothers report that they have been discriminated against or had a negative experience at work during their pregnancy, maternity leave or upon their return to work.
In December 2019, the Queen’s speech confirmed that a new Employment Bill was to be introduced, and that the extended protection against redundancy for new and expectant Mothers would be included in this.
However, the Queen’s speech in May 2021 failed to mention the proposed Employment Bill at all. Evidence shows that women continue to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and more likely to be selected for redundancy, particularly if they have been on maternity leave. As a result, it is clear that this additional protection is needed now more than ever.
This week in the House of Commons the Government again stated that legislation to afford women additional protection against redundancy would be introduced “when Parliamentary time allows”, but no timescale has been given.
If you think that you have been unfairly selected for redundancy as a result of your pregnancy or maternity leave, you might have claims for discrimination against your employer. The deadline to take action about this is very short, and so you should take specialist advice as soon as possible.
For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Employment Team will be in touch.