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New employment bill to extend redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination

View profile for Maria Chadwick
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Three in four mothers say they have had a negative or discriminatory experience

In 2016, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published research which showed that 77% of mothers had a negative or discriminatory experience from their employer during pregnancy, maternity leave and/or return from maternity leave.

In order to address these issues, the government undertook a consultation in the first quarter of 2019 on extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents. The published report confirms:  

  • 75% of respondents agreed that redundancy protection for new mothers into a period of return to work should be aligned with the protection already in place during maternity leave
  • A very small number of responses suggested the protections should be applied to women who return to work after a miscarriage or stillbirth

The respondents to the consultation suggested that women should be protected for a period of six months upon their return to work.

Currently, women are protected from discrimination during their pregnancy and ordinary maternity leave, which is for a period of 26 weeks, thereafter the start of that leave, under the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 also creates an obligation for employers to offer employees on maternity leave a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available, which gives those on maternity leave a priority over employees who are also at risk of redundancy.

Following this report, the government has pledged to extend the redundancy protection period once a mother has returned to work and this was addressed by the Queen during her speech to the House of Lords on 19th December 2019. It is however, unclear whether this will extend to those whom have suffered a miscarriage.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy, maternity or pregnancy related-illness, it is important to remember that there are strict time limits to bring such a claim in the County Court or the employment tribunal. It is therefore important that you seek specialist legal advice without delay following an incident of discrimination.

If you need further advice regarding discrimination, please contact our specialist discrimination team on 0175 321 6399.

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