I understand that the Government has new proposals for extending the redundancy protection enjoyed by women during pregnancy and maternity leave. Can you explain?

Under present legislation, an employer must offer a woman on maternity leave a suitable alternative vacancy — if one is available; and she is given priority for this post over all other employees at risk of redundancy. This protection also applies during adoption, shared parental leave and paternity leave.

In July 2019, the Government announced its response to an earlier consultation on extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents. This proposes:

  • to extend the redundancy protection period for six months once a new mother has returned to work
  • to afford the same protection to those taking adoption leave
  • to extend redundancy protection for those returning from shared parental leave.

The Government confirmed that paternity leave does not justify equal treatment as it is confined to two weeks.

On 21 October 2022, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill passed its second reading in Parliament, which is a significant step on the way to this becoming law.

When these proposals come into law, it will mean a substantial increased length of time for which women will have enhanced rights during a redundancy situation. A pregnant woman will be protected from the time that she notifies her employer of her pregnancy (either verbally or in writing) until six months after her return to work. This protection will also apply to those on adoption and shared parental leave.

The new rules could have considerable impact on female dominated workforces — a larger pool of women would be entitled to a suitable alternative position.