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Redundancy protection during pregnancy and after returning to work

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The government has published a response to consultation concerning the extension of redundancy protection for parents returning from maternity or other parental leave, which was launched in January 2019.

The original consultation sought views on three main issues:

• whether the redundancy protection currently available during maternity leave (giving women priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy) should be extended into a period of “return to work”, before making an employee on maternity leave redundant.

• whether similar protections should be afforded to other groups who take extended periods of leave for similar purposes, such as adoption or shared parental leave; and

• whether the steps that the government is taking to increase business and employer awareness of their rights and obligations might be improved to tackle pregnancy discrimination more effectively.

Subject to any change by the new Prime Minister, the government has confirmed that it will:

• ensure the redundancy protection period applies from the point the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether orally or in writing;

• extend the redundancy protection period for six months once a new mother has returned to work (expected to start immediately maternity leave is finished);

• extend redundancy protection for those taking adoption leave, following the same approach as the extended protection being provided for those returning from maternity leave i.e.– it will be for six months beyond return;

• extend redundancy protection for those taking shared parental leave, taking account of the following key principles and issues:

o the key objective of this policy is to help protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination;

o the practical and legal differences between shared parental leave and maternity leave mean that it will require a different approach;

o the period of extended protection should be proportionate to the amount of leave and the threat of discrimination;

o a mother should be no worse off if she curtails her maternity leave and then takes a period of Shared Parental Leave;

o the solution should not create any disincentives to take Shared Parental Leave;

• establish a taskforce of employer and family representative groups. The taskforce will make recommendations on what improvements can be made to the information available to employers and families on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. It will also develop an action plan on what steps government and other organisations can take to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work.

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