In the news: protection against redundancy now applies during pregnancy

5 min read time | Hayley Southward | Article | Managing a team People and culture General Work-life balance | General

Discussing protection against redundancy

Facing redundancy is a frightening prospect for any professional, regardless of their age, seniority or gender, but it’s even more terrifying for those with small children. Due to this, new parents have been protected against redundancy for the past 28 years, and now – thanks to recent changes in the law – pregnant employees in England, Wales and Scotland have the same rights, too.

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 is a modification to the Employment Rights Act 1996 and officially came into place on 6th April 2024. The changes effectively make it punishable for an employer to place an expectant employee under risk of redundancy without offering them a suitable, alternative job role as a priority. If organisations don’t comply with the new act, they could face unfair dismissal rulings at employment tribunals and risk having to pay out uncapped compensation.

The changes to the law came about after a government organisation – the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) – launched an inquiry and report back in 2016, which revealed the levels of discrimination faced by mothers returning from maternity leave. In 2019, the government committed to extending the redundancy protection to include pregnant employees, and several other additional categories. Now, in 2024, these changes have finally come into place.

Want to find out more? We’ve answered the most frequently asked questions below.


What were the old rules around redundancy protection?

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees who were on maternity leave, Shared Parental Leave (SPL) or adoption leave were protected against redundancy. If an individual in these circumstances was at risk, the law made it a requirement to offer them priority access to suitable, alternative roles. When The Equality Act 2010 was introduced, it gave additional legal protection against discrimination to those who were pregnant or on maternity leave.


What do the new redundancy protections rules offer?

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 is an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996 and grants priority status for alternative job roles to not only employees on maternity leave, SPL or adoption leave, but also to those who are pregnant and who have recently returned from the different types of familial leave listed above.

For expectant mothers, the protection comes into place as soon as they inform their employer about the pregnancy and ends 18 months after the child is born.

For employees taking adoption leave, the protection begins as soon as this period begins, and ends 18 months after the child has been placed with their family or 18 months after entering England, Wales or Scotland.

In the tragic case of an individual suffering a miscarriage before 24 weeks’ gestation, the protection will stop two weeks after the end of the pregnancy.

For those taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL) for less than six weeks, the protection will begin at the end of the period. For those taking SPL for more than six consecutive weeks, the protection will remain for 18 months after the birth of a child.


What do the changes mean for employees?

Sadly, the new rules don’t actually prevent an employee from facing redundancy, and the laws do not ban organisations from making this decision. However, the law does mean that it is now a legal requirement to give them priority access to alternative opportunities.


What does this mean for organisations?

Now the laws around redundancy have been extended to include the additional categories discussed in the section above, businesses need to consider how it may impact any ongoing and future redundancy processes. Now, when making an employee who fits into one of the protected categories under the new Act redundant, employers must offer a suitable new role. If there are none, the employee is entitled to redundancy pay.

About this author

Hayley Southward, Head of Learning & Development, Hays

Hayley has been with Hays since 2011 and the Head of Learning & Development since 2022. She is responsible for challenging and inspiring our people to reach their full potential through the strategic development and deployment of innovative, engaging and blended learning programmes that are proactively designed to anticipate changing markets and customer and business needs.

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