Policy Explainer Extended redundancy protections for pregnancy and parental leave

In 2020, a woman who had been made redundant by the Liz Earle Beauty Company when she was eight months pregnant was awarded more than £17,000 by an employment tribunal.

The grounds for the judgement were that the company had unfairly dismissed her and discriminated against her on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity. Although the law at the time did not give pregnant employees an explicit right to be offered suitable alternative vacancies where available, the fact that the company failed to consider her for other, similar roles was a key piece of evidence which led the tribunal to rule in her favour.

What has changed?

From 6 April 2024, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 extends redundancy rights (which previously only applied to an employee currently on maternity, shared parental, or adoption leave) so that they apply:

  • from the point an employee informs their employer they are pregnant
  • until 18 months after the expected week of childbirth, the child’s birth date, or date of adoption, for employees returning from maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave.

During this period, employees in these groups will have first access and refusal to other job vacancies offered to them if they are made redundant by an employer. That said, if no appropriate vacancy is available, an employer can still make them redundant.

In the case of miscarriage before 24 weeks of pregnancy, redundancy protection begins at the point at which the employer is informed of the pregnancy and ends two weeks after the end of the pregnancy.

Where an employee experiences the loss of a baby after 24 weeks, they are entitled to maternity leave and the associated redundancy protections for 18 months from the date of the birth, even if the employer was not made aware of their pregnancy.

The new protection applies where an employee notifies their employer of a pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024 and maternity/adoption leave ending on or after 6 April 2024. For shared parental leave, the new protection applies to employees taking at least six weeks of shared parental leave which begins on or after 6 April 2024.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review their redundancy policies to ensure are in line with the most up-to-date legislation, and that training for staff responsible for dealing with redundancies is updated. Ensuring that records of job vacancies are kept up to date will minimise the risk of anything being missed.

Updated policies and training should also take into account several other family-friendly employment law changes which came into effect in April, including carer’s leave, the right to request flexible working becoming a day one right, and greater flexibility in how paternity leave can be taken.

About the author

image of Alex Hall-Chen

Alex Hall-Chen

Principal Policy Advisor for Sustainability, Employment, and Skills at the IoD

Alex Hall-Chen is Principal Policy Advisor for Sustainability, Employment, and Skills at the IoD. She previously worked in education research and as a Policy Advisor at the CBI. She holds a BA in Politics and Sociology from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in Comparative and International Education from the University of Oxford, and is a school governor for the Thinking Schools Academy Trust.

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