Our recent article ‘maternity discrimination‘, highlighted the shocking statistics about the employment of women who are pregnant or have taken maternity leave.
The campaign group, Maternity Action, have commissioned a report;
Unfair Redundancies During Pregnancy, Maternity Leave And Return To Work – https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/RedundancyReportFinal.compressed.pdflooking specifically into the rate of women who are pregnant or on maternity leave who are made redundant.
There is general protection for women on maternity leave from redundancy (in the Employment Rights Act 1996) in that they must be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if it exists, rather than simply being given the opportunity to apply for it.
Women also have protection from discrimination or detriment because of their pregnancy or maternity. However, in a way this does not go far enough to protect women from unscrupulous employers.
A headline from the report is that “each year, there are over 500,000 pregnant women in the workplace, many of whom go on to take a period of maternity leave before returning to work. One in every 20 of these women are made redundant during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return, equivalent to 6% of all pregnant women and new mothers at work. The timing of redundancy varies, with 1% of women made redundant when they were pregnant, 3% on maternity leave and 2% on their return from maternity leave. Another 3% of mothers had discussed redundancy with their employer.”
The report concludes that action is needed to give greater protection to employees in the workplace who are pregnant or on family leave following the birth of a child. The key recommendation is that: “new legal protections should be introduced to protect women against unfair redundancy. These should operate from pregnancy through to six months after the end of maternity or shared parental leave. These should follow the German model of prohibiting redundancy except in specified circumstances.”
They explicitly recommend that this protection should extend to fathers and partners exercising their right to take parental leave during the first year of their child’s life. They also advocate greater reporting and monitoring requirements and giving greater support to employers to enable them to handle the situation better.
Handling the maternity leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave of a member of staff, at whatever level, can be difficult for a business. It is vital that you handle it with respect. Having strong policies in place and access to clear, concise and expert legal advice can be a massive benefit.
If you are an employee that has experienced problems with your employer during your pregnancy or period of family leave, then you do have rights and our expert employment team are here to help.
For information on employment rights and advice see here.