In previous newsletters we reported on the launch of a new Government consultation on pregnancy and maternity discrimination (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/773179/extending-redundancy-protection-for-pregnant-women.pdf) . The Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) has, this month, published its submissions to the Government’s consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents returning to work. Naturally the WESC welcome and agree to the proposal to provide an additional period of protection against redundancy for new mothers. Their submission also raises some interesting questions on whether the Government can, and should, go further in terms of proposed reforms to protect this vulnerable group against workplace discrimination.
Currently, women on maternity leave are afforded special protection against redundancy while they are away from the workplace, but this protection comes to an end the minute they return to work. The central tenet of the now-closed consultation, launched in January 2019, was whether the protection for returning mothers against redundancy should be extended for a period of 6 months following their return to work. In their submission, the WESC unequivocally endorsed the proposed extension to the protections against redundancy and urged Government to reform the current system without delay. Back in 2016, the WESC highlighted that an extension to current protections against redundancy was needed within the next 2 years to address an increasing problem of new mothers being forced out of their roles shortly after returning from a period of maternity leave. Now that that timeframe has elapsed, we can expect growing pressure on Government to implement reform and to do so as a priority.
The WESC submission is instructive in terms of identifying areas where they consider Government could go further and includes the following suggestions/recommendations:
- A single comprehensive website for employers and individuals which includes information not just in relation to pregnancy and maternity rights and entitlements (e.g. leave and pay), but which also includes comprehensive information on employers’ obligations and employees’ rights when it comes to avoiding discrimination in pregnancy and maternity situations
- Government to work with relevant stakeholders, e.g. General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council to ensure frontline health professionals can provide basic advice to women and signpost them to further information and resources in order to raise current levels of awareness
- A requirement for large companies to report on retention rates for women 12 months after returning from maternity leave and 12 months after lodging an application for flexible working
- An increase in the time-limit for raising discrimination claims arising out of pregnancy and/or maternity from three months to six months
It remains to be seen the extent to which, if at all, any of these additional suggestions are endorsed and adopted by the Government, and we will report further once the Government publishes its response to the consultation expected to be later this year.
Here’s a link to their submission in full https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/women-and-equalities/Correspondence/Consultation-response-1-5-19.pdf