A 10-minute Rule Bill was introduced in the House of Commons last month by the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee to enhance the protections for expectant and new mothers against redundancy.
Currently, a woman who is at risk of redundancy while on maternity leave must be offered any suitable alternative vacancies available and she will be given priority for any of those vacancies over other employees who are not on maternity leave. However, this protection is contingent on the employer having vacancies available, which is not always the case.
According to research carried out by the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, pregnant women and mothers in Britain are impacted by discrimination at work more often now than they were a decade ago, with up to one in 20 women being made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave.
The Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill 2019 seeks to prohibit redundancy from the point a woman notifies her employer she is pregnant, until six months after the conclusion of her maternity leave, save where the employer ceases to carry on business at the place where the expectant or new mother is employed. It is intended that the same protections will apply to women who experience a stillbirth or miscarriage. It is also proposed that the three-month time limit for bringing a claim in maternity discrimination cases should be extended by a further three months, allowing for a six-month time limit in total.
Critics have raised concerns that the proposed new protections might defeat their purpose, since employers might be more hesitant to employ women if they feel the new protections are too burdensome.
The Bill remains in its infancy at this stage, but it is hoped that the proposals will be progressed and implemented in swift order. We will provide further updates on any developments in due course. If, in the meantime, you have any questions on this or any similar issues, please do get in touch with one of the members of our People team here at Dentons.