The Government announced on 21 October 2022 that it was backing the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.
This follows a 2019 Government consultation which found evidence of new parents facing prejudice in the workplace and an estimated 54,000 women a year feeling they have to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
The Bill is set to amend provisions relating to redundancy under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Currently, those on maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave are awarded additional protection against being made redundant. Under regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 before an employer can make them redundant, they must first offer a suitable alternative vacancy (where one exists) within the company or with an associated employer.
The Bill proposes to grant the Secretary of State the power to extend the redundancy protection period after an employee returns from maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave. It has been indicated that the policy intention is that the period of protection will extend from when a woman tells their employer they are pregnant until 18 months after the birth or adoption. Therefore someone taking the maximum 52 weeks leave will get an extra 6 months protection.
Once the Bill is passed, employers will need to be mindful of the extended period of protection. In practice, it will mean those covered will take priority over other staff in a redundancy situation where suitable alternative vacancies are available, as those on maternity leave currently do. Where an employer does not comply with this, an employee has a claim for automatic unfair dismissal.
The Bill is currently progressing through Parliament and will need to be approved by the House of Lords before it can become legislation.
For more information, please contact a member of our Employment Team.