Additional pregnancy and maternity leave protection proposed
Whilst there are currently protections in place both under the Equality Act 2010 and the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, research carried out in 2016 found that 77% of working women had a negative experience at work which was related to their pregnancy or maternity leave. A recent report published by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) also showed that the number of expectant and new mothers forced to leave their jobs had almost doubled since 2005.
In response, the government has carried out reviews of the current protections and has recently launched a consultation paper to consider a number of potential changes to the current pregnancy and maternity protections.
What are the proposed changes?
- Extension of redundancy protection to new mothers for six months after they return to work – the WESC report recommended that additional protection for new and expectant mothers was provided throughout pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months afterwards. The current protections end as soon as a new mother returns to work and her maternity leave ends
- Proposal for redundancy protection to begin from date employer informed in writing of pregnancy. Current protections only begins when an employee goes on maternity leave
- Extension of redundancy protection to other groups – the WESC report notes that those taking similar leave such as adoption leave, shared parental leave and longer periods of parental leave may also experience similar problems to women taking maternity leave. The consultation therefore seeks views on whether the additional protection should be extended to some or all of those groups
- Extension of time limit to bring an employment tribunal claim from 3 to 6 months in pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases
What does this mean for employers?
The consultation period ends on 5 April 2019, so none of the above recommended changes are certain to happen. Nevertheless, the proposed changes will result in a number of key changes which will particularly limit an employer’s flexibility in terms of redundancy procedures.
It is important that employers are mindful of what the government and pressure groups are considering in terms of pregnancy and maternity protection so that they can ensure policies, procedures and training for managers are current and in line with the most recent legislation. If you would like to contribute towards the consultation, you can do so via email.