The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 takes effect on 24 July 2023. The newly introduced law will provide pregnant women and recent returners from parental leave priority status for redeployment options in a redundancy situation.
In this article, we will point out the current position of pregnant employees and working parents returning to work after family-related leave and what changes will occur with the new law.
What legal rights do employees now have?
Employees on maternity leave and employees on adoption or joint parental leave are currently given preference over other employees who may be laid off.
When an employee is on maternity leave or on shared parental leave or adoption leave and the employer decides to make redundant this employee; this employee has the right to be given a suitable replacement position if one is available. If the employer fails to follow these standards may result in a claim for automatic unfair dismissal unless the employee refuses this suitable offer and lose her rights for receiving a statutory redundancy payment.
At present, pregnancy and maternity protection is provided under the Equality Act 2010 from the start of the pregnancy until the end of maternity leave, or when the woman returns to work after the pregnancy, whichever comes first. Moreover, it is unlawful to treat someone unfavourably because they are pregnant, have a pregnancy-related illness, have recently given birth, are breastfeeding, or are taking or seeking to take maternity leave. Although adoption leave is not a protected feature under the Equality Act 2010, employees who are on adoption leave have the right not to be treated unfavourably for reasons linked to their absence from work. It is also remarkable that employees who take paternity or shared parental leave, are also protected in the same way.
What rights will new parents have under the new law?
The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will extend redundancy protection to pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity leave, adoption leave, and shared parental leave. However, the Act contains only a few details on the specifics of the protection, without even indicating how long the protection would last or how a protected time frame for pregnancy will be calculated.
The required further regulations are largely expected to expand the protection presently given solely during maternity leave, such that it begins when an individual informs their employer that they are pregnant and concludes 18 months after the delivery. Moreover, parents returning after adoption leave and shared parental leave (but not paternity leave) are likewise likely to get such protections. The redundancy protection under the new law is also expected to cover women who have had a miscarriage.
The government considers that legislation would protect new parents and expecting women from employment discrimination, providing them with more job stability at a critical juncture in their lives.
This new law is especially important for employers to avoid discrimination when selecting employees for redundancy. Therefore, firms should plan to revise their different family leave policies and redundancy procedures.
By Ece Gorgun Balci