Women and Equalities Select Committee Response: Consultation on extending redundancy protection for new parents

The Select Committee has asked the government to implement its proposed extension of redundancy protections as quickly as possible – and to introduce additional protections.

We recently told you about the government’s consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents (here). As a reminder, the government declared that it was “determined to do more” to protect new mums returning to work from the risk of redundancy, and sought views on its plans.

Currently, if a new mother’s position is made redundant during her maternity leave, she is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (if available) in priority over other affected employees. The new proposals are that this protection be extended so as to cover the period of pregnancy and a period of up to six months from the employee’s return to work. The consultation (which closed on 5 April 2019) also sought views on whether similar protection should be offered to parents upon their return from adoption leave or shared parental leave.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) published its response last week, supporting the proposal, and suggesting that the government implement the plans as soon as possible. However, it went on to say that the proposals need to go further and “robustly address” the issue of enforcement of existing and new rights.

The WESC also made some further recommendations, including the provision of a streamlined advice platform for both employers and individuals in the form of a website providing further information and resources. This is to address its concerns that the quality and accessibility of the advice and information currently available is inadequate and should be improved. In order to support this, the WESC has suggested the government work with the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council to ensure that individuals providing frontline health services are able to provide basic advice in this area and guide women to further information and resources.

The WESC also recommended that the time limit for pregnancy/maternity discrimination claims be extended from three months to six months – a proposal which it believes already has widespread supportand should therefore be introduced as quickly as possible. A further recommendation (consistent with its previous report in 2016) is that larger employers should record and publish retention rates for women 12 months after they return from maternity leave and 12 months after they lodge an application for flexible working. This is with the intention of identifying employers who have a “poor record” on this form of discrimination. 

We await the government’s reaction to the responses received to the consultation and post updates on this in due course. In the meantime, employers should continue to ensure they comply with the relevant legislation and guidelines when dealing with women on maternity leave in redundancy situations, and take advice when they have queries in this area.

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Natasha Meikle

About Natasha Meikle

Natasha advises employers and employees on a wide range of employment issues. She has experience in dealing with both contentious and non-contentious matters. She acts for both public and private sector clients, across a variety of industries including education, leisure, financial and charity.

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