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Redundancy protection: good news for pregnant workers and new parents

Redundancy protection: good news for pregnant workers and new parents

Pregnant workers are to get greater protection from redundancy under new laws set to be introduced this April (2024).

It will start the minute they tell their employer they are pregnant until their child is 18 months old.

New parents will also have increased security when returning from maternity, adoption and shared parental leave.

What is the current legal position for pregnant workers?

At the moment, pregnant workers have limited special protection against being dismissed, although under the Equality Act an employer cannot discriminate against someone because they are pregnant or on maternity leave.

Before making anyone on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave redundant, an employer must offer them suitable alternative employment where it exists before offering the job to anyone else provisionally selected for redundancy.

This protection will now be extended to pregnant workers and will come into effect on 6 April.

How will the new law protect pregnant workers and new parents?

Pregnancy and maternity leave: Under the new rules, employees will be protected from redundancy from the moment they tell their employer they are pregnant and for an additional protected period after they return to work from statutory maternity leave.

This is calculated from the expected week of the baby’s birth until it is 18 months old.

The new rules apply when an employer is informed of the pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024, and for the additional protected period, any maternity leave ending on or after this date.

Adoption leave: anyone on adoption leave will be protected for an additional period on their return to work. This is calculated from the day the adopted child is placed with them for a period of 18 months.

Shared parental leave: employees will be protected during their leave plus an additional period when they return to work calculated form the baby’s birth date or adoption placement date for 18 months. The extension only applies if the employee has taken at least six consecutive weeks of shared parental leave.

Miscarriage: employees will be protected from when they have notified their employer of the pregnancy to two weeks after the end of the pregnancy (for pregnancies ending before 24 weeks). Pregnancies ending after 24 weeks are classed as stillbirths and therefore the employee would be entitled to statutory maternity leave.

What should employees do now?

There are some complicating factors and with the government yet to bring out the guidance linked to the changes, it’s always best to check your legal position if you are not sure.

What should employers do now?

Failure to offer suitable alternative employment (where vacancies exist) to protected employees can lead to a risk of claims for unfair dismissal and possible unlawful discrimination.

It’s crucial that employers carefully consider all vacancies and the selection processes for redundancy.

It’s also vital to update family friendly policies to include the new rights and brief line managers on the changes.

Get in touch

If you need advice about this area of the law, please contact Wards Solicitors’ specialist Employment Team.

Wards Solicitors is endorsed as a South West leading firm in the independent Legal 500 list for 2024 having received overwhelmingly positive testimonials from clients.

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