In early this year, the UK government launched a consultation on increasing employment protection for pregnant women and new mothers & fathers. A significant number of people still find themselves facing problems at work, which is related to a pregnancy. For example, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission 11% of women reported that on their return to work they often face redundancy, dismissal or other negative treatment. Whether or not the consultation results in these protections being given greater teeth with which to protect new and prospective parents is another matter but let us hope so!
One of the headline changes that are being consulted on is that pregnant women and new parents may be given greater protection from being made redundant. Currently, an employer can make a pregnant employee redundant, so long as they do not discriminate against them when doing so (although this can be risky for employers). Employees on maternity leave are currently prioritised for any suitable alternative roles during a redundancy process with their current employer over other employees. It remains to be seen what additional protections may actually materialise from the consultation but you should expect to see further prioritisation given to pregnant employees or perhaps even a greater financial entitlement to redundancy pay.
Another suggestion is that the rights of those who are traditionally regarded as parents may be extended to cover those who are utilising their right to shared parental leave and for those returning to work from recent adoptions. Under the current framework, parents are able to effectively share any maternity leave or pay between them. If these entitlements are to be strengthened, you would expect to see further protections against any form of discrimination in employment for those who seek to benefit from shared maternity leave and pay. Similarly, you should expect to see further protections for those who wish exercise adoption related leave, .
However, we will need to wait and see what additional protections actually result from this consultation. Please bear in mind that if you wish to raise a claim in the employment tribunal for discrimination that you need to do so within 3 months minus 1 day, otherwise your right to do so will usually be extinguished.
If you think that you have been discriminated against at work because of pregnancy or maternity, please get in touch with a member of our specialist employment team today.