Another step towards family and maternity leave security

New legislation to protect those who are pregnant or returned from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave came a step closer following a second reading in the House of Lords this month (3 March). 

The measures are designed to tackle the discrimination reported by women during pregnancy and maternity leave, with 77% saying they had a negative experience or suffered potential discrimination during this time.  Some 11% of those canvassed reported being dismissed or made compulsorily redundant, when their colleagues were not.  Some 20% of mothers reported other financial loss such as demotion or missing out on promotion and being excluded from non-salary benefits.

Subject to the Bill becoming law in its current form, pregnant women and those back from family leave should find themselves in a stronger position, with employers required to offer alternative vacancies to anyone under threat of redundancy in those situations.      

Under current rules, employers are required to offer a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists before offering redundancy when an employee is on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave.  

The Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Bill, introduced by Dan Jarvis MP and backed by the government, will extend this redundancy protection to pregnant women before they take maternity leave, and for new parents during the six months after they return to work from a relevant form of leave. 

June Salmon, Employment Law expert at Spire Solicitors LLP, commented :

 “This Private Member’s Bill will introduce a significant level of additional security to parents taking time out of the workplace to raise a family, putting them at the top of the queue for an alternative role.  It’s an important step in overcoming reported discrimination against pregnant women. Employers should get up to speed on the draft legislation now, so as to have systems in place ready for implementation, such as processes to identify the timeframe of earlier periods of maternity leave when implementing any redundancies.”