The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023 and will come into force next month, on 24 July 2023.
Under the current laws, if employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave are at risk of redundancy, employers must offer suitable alternative employment to them (where a vacancy exists), giving them priority to suitable alternative employment over other redundant employees (who are not on family related leave). However, once employees have returned to work from maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave, employers are not obliged to offer suitable alternative employment to them. This has resulted in some employers waiting until an employee has returned to work from a period of family related leave before making their job redundant.
Under the new legislation, the obligation to offer suitable alternative employment will be extended to apply to pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave. The key changes being introduced are:
1. Employees returning from maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave can be protected from redundancy for up to 18 months after the birth of the child, meaning that employees will be entitled to an additional six months of redundancy protection.
2. The regulations will allow for the “protected period of pregnancy” to start after the pregnancy has ended. Under the regulations, the “protected period of pregnancy” is likely to start once the employee has informed their employer of their pregnancy. However, the regulations will also contain a provision which provides employees who have suffered a miscarriage before they have informed their employer of their pregnancy, to access the redundancy protection.
Matthew Potter comments:
“The changes are likely to have a significant impact on many employers, who will be obliged to offer suitable alternative employment to a greater cross-section of their potentially redundant employees. Whilst this is beneficial for new and expectant parents, who will avoid having to go through the stressful process of competing with other redundant employees for suitable alternative employment, many employers may feel that the changes will result in unfair redundancy processes, particularly in instances where the priority status of certain employees to suitable alternative employment results in the loss of high-performing employees. Employers will therefore need to manage their redundancy processes carefully, ensuring that they identify any suitable alternative vacancies across their business, in order to protect themselves from the potential risk of a claim”.
If you have any questions or require any assistance on the proposed changes, please contact a member of the team here.