Government consults on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents

The Government has launched a new consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents. It comes off the back of key issues raised in the Women and Equalities Select Committee 2016 report and the recommendations made by the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.  The consultation closes on 5 April 2019.

In summary, the consultation:

  • seeks views on extending the current redundancy protection available to women to cover the period of pregnancy and a 6 month period afterwards;
  • asks whether similar protection should be afforded to other groups, for example, those taking shared parental leave or adoption leave;
  • sets out the steps that the Government is taking to increase employer and employee awareness of their rights and obligations, and invites comments on how they might be improved to tackle pregnancy discrimination more effectively in general;
  • considers the existing approach to the enforcement of employment and equalities legislation in the context of recommendations from the WESC and the Taylor Review; and
  • discusses the tribunal time limits.

Redundancy protection for women on/returning from maternity leave

  • Currently, Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (MAPLE) provides that, before making an employee on maternity leave redundant, employers have an obligation to offer them (not just invite them to apply for) a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available with the employer (or an associated employer). This protection applies while the woman is on ordinary or additional maternity leave.
  • The consultation recommends extending the current protection given under Regulation 10 MAPLE to include women who have returned from maternity leave in the last 6 months, not just those currently on maternity leave. This right may also be extended to women who have informed their employer that they are pregnant.

Redundancy protection for groups taking other extended family-related leave

The Government is also seeking views on extending the redundancy protection afforded under MAPLE to other groups who are taking extended periods of leave for similar purposes. This includes adoption leave and shared parental leave. The Government acknowledges that there may be practical challenges with this in terms of how different types of leave interact with one another, and also with how extended redundancy protection would work where discontinuous periods of shared parental leave are taken.   However, it says that it will form a technical task group to work through these issues.

Tribunal time limits

The Government states that it is committed to consulting to explore the evidence for changing employment tribunal time limits for claims relating to discrimination, harassment and victimisation, including on grounds of pregnancy or maternity. However, the Government notes that discrimination time limits can already be extended by a tribunal where it is considered ‘just and equitable’ to do so.