In January of this year the government opened a consultation process to determine whether to extend existing redundancy protection for women and new parents. The proposed changes would include where an employee returns to work from maternity leave, they would receive enhanced redundancy protection for 6 months following their return date.
As it currently stands during a redundancy selection process an employee who is off on maternity leave has enhanced protections from redundancy. Under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations (1999), before making an employee on maternity leave redundant, employers have an obligation to offer them (not just invite them to apply for) a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available with the employer (or an associated employer). This gives the employee on maternity leave priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy.
However, following the publishing research by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it has been highlighted that employee’s returning from maternity leave are often the target of redundancies. The study found that 1 in 9 women said they had been made redundant when they returned to work after having a child or were treated so badly, they felt forced out of their job. The same research estimates 54,000 women a year may lose their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity.
The consultation process on proposals to grant further redundancy protections to women and new parents remained open until 5th April 2019. Giving parents returning from adoption or shared parental leave the same rights is also proposed.