Extended legal protections against redundancy for pregnant women, new mothers and adoptive parents have been confirmed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Government consultation revealed that new parents continue to face discrimination at work, with up to 54,000 women saying they felt they had to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination. Research for BEIS in 2016 showed one in nine women saying they had been made redundant or fired after returning from maternity leave or were made to feel so uncomfortable they had to resign.
After further industry consultation, the current rules will be extended by six months, giving a two year legal protection against redundancy for women returning from ordinary or additional maternity leave, plus those taking adoption or shared parental leave. This will take effect from the date of the mother’s return to work.
While adoption leave has been included in the initial announcement, further consultation may mean that this ends up with slightly different treatment than maternity leave. Parents of sick and premature babies may also receive new entitlements to additional leave.
The changes, yet to be legislated, are part of the Good Work Plan which the government hopes will encourage shifting practices to keep pace with changes in how we now work. With short term and zero hour contracts, gig work and working from home, employment practice needs to reflect the altered working environment.
During this holiday season, it’s also sobering to read research from the TUC in July showing that nearly two million workers don’t receive the minimum paid annual leave entitlement, with around a million not receiving any paid leave. The Working Time Regulation 1998 entitles employees to 5.6 weeks of paid leave, roughly 28 days a year including public holidays. Employers and employees need to take responsibility for ensuring that individuals take their entitled leave.
A taskforce of family groups and employers will be set up to contribute to an action plan to help pregnant women and new mothers stay in work, with an added remit around raising employer awareness of obligations and employee rights.