Pregnant women and parents to get more employment protection

pregnant woman with laptop

The government is planning more protection for pregnant women and new parents to prevent them losing their jobs when they return to work after having children.

It’s put forward proposals that the legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers on maternity leave is extended so that it continues for up to six months after they return to work.

It will also seek views on affording the same protection to parents returning from adoption leave or shared parental leave.

Research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), found 1 in 9 women said they had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

One in five mothers reported other financial loss, which included failing to gain a promotion, salary reduction, a lower pay rise or bonus, and not receiving non-salary benefits and/or demotion.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work. Our proposals are set to provide greater protection for new parents in the workplace and put their minds at ease at this important time.

“This follows the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years. On parental leave and pay alone:

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  • we already offer maternity entitlements of up to 52 weeks of maternity leave – 39 weeks of which are paid
  • we have given fathers and partners a statutory right to paternity leave and pay, and we have allowed eligible parents to share leave and pay where the mother does not intend to use all her maternity entitlements
  • and we have given all employees with 26 weeks’ qualifying service a right to request flexible working, not only those returning from parental leave.”

The government has now begun a public consultation on pregnancy and maternity discrimination that will:

  • set out the current legal protections for pregnant women and new mothers under the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996
  • ask how an extension of redundancy protection currently afforded under the Employment Rights Act for those on maternity leave and other types of family related leave and pay might work best, and how long this protection should last
  • ask whether a similar protection should be afforded to other groups (such as those returning from other forms of long-term childcare leave – principally adoption leave and shared parental leave)
  • set out the steps that the government is taking to increase employees’ awareness of their rights and employers’ awareness of their obligations, and invites comments on how they might be improved, to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination more effectively
  • consider the existing approach to the enforcement of employment and equalities legislation in the context of recommendations from the Women and Equalities Select Committee and the Taylor Review
  • discuss the 3-month time limit within which a claim of discrimination can ordinarily be brought to an Employment Tribunal.