The government has responded to the consultation on pregnancy and maternity discrimination by extending redundancy protection for new parents and mothers. This consultation follows the research commissioned by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which found that 1 in 9 women said they had been fired or made redundant when they came back to work from having a child or were treated badly and so felt inclined to leave their job. This research has estimated that 54,000 women each year may lose their job due to this discrimination.

Currently, a woman on maternity leave who is selected for redundancy must be given priority over other employees at risk of redundancy for any roles available that would be ‘suitable’ and ‘alternative employment. The government has decided to ensure that the redundancy protection period applies from the point a woman informs her employer that she is pregnant whether in writing or via meeting, the protection also will last for 6 months following their return from maternity leave and after an extended period of family leave.

Employers must therefore be sure to consider any parents, particularly those that fall within these three categories for any suitable alternative roles during a redundancy situation and not essentially forget about them as they are not necessarily present in the office and wait until they are due to return.

The consultation will consider, with the help of its task force made up of employer and family groups, any recommendation on how to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work and as to how to raise awareness of employer’s obligations and employees rights. They will consider the practicalities of these new enhanced rights and particularly how it will affect those on shared parental leave given the practical and legal differences between shared parental leave and maternity leave.

The announcement comes shortly after the government published a number of proposals designed to support working parents for consultation. These include proposed new leave entitlements for parents of sick and premature babies, and proposals to ensure that large businesses are more transparent on their policies for parental leave and pay and flexible working.

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