Pregnant women and new mothers could receive up to two years of legal protection against redundancy, the time period being extended for an additional six months after their return to work.
The move comes in response to a government consultation that found new parents continue to face unfair discrimination. Research estimates that up to 54,000 women a year felt they had to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal, and those on maternity leave have special protection in a redundancy situation. These reforms will for the first-time extend that redundancy protection for six months from the date of a mother’s return to work as well as covering those taking adoption or shared parental leave. This will help ensure new parents are protected from discrimination in the workplace, regardless of gender and circumstance.
The announcement follows a raft of recent measures designed to support working parents, as part of the Good Work Plan. These include proposed new leave entitlements for parents of sick and premature babies and proposed new measures to ensure large businesses are more transparent on their policies for parental leave and pay and flexible working.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “There is no place for discrimination against new parents in the modern workplace. It is unacceptable that new parents continue to feel they are treated unfairly and the government is determined to put an end to this.
“The reforms… will better protect new parents, giving them the peace of mind to manage the return to work while also caring for a new child.”
The government is also to set up a new taskforce, made up of employer and family groups, to develop an action plan on what further steps government and other organisations can take to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work. It will also make recommendations on raising awareness of employer obligations and employee rights.
Research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that one in nine women said they had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.
This move goes further than current EU requirements on maternity entitlements and parental leave, showing that the UK is going even further in its commitment to workers’ rights and meeting the challenges of the changing world of work.