Redundancy Rights: Pregnancy and Maternity

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Health Assured team

08 May 2024

Redundancy can be a difficult process to navigate through and understanding your legal rights as an employee whilst being pregnant or on maternity leave is essential. You may refer to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) guidelines below when trying to determine if you are classed as an employee. ACAS is a free and a confidential body who provide support on employment rights, best practices and policies for employees, employers and representatives and provide support on workplace conflict.

See Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) guidelines

Protection From Discrimination

The first and most important protection from redundancy comes from the Equality Act 2010 which prevents unfavourable and discriminatory treatment towards a pregnant employee and those on maternity leave. This means they cannot be targeted for redundancy purely on the basis that they are pregnant or on maternity leave as this would be pregnancy/maternity discrimination and could lead to the employer facing legal action against them.

Suitable Alternative Roles

Another significant piece of protection is that employees should be offered suitable alternative roles where this is available. Employees that are pregnant or taking maternity, adoption or shared parental leave are prioritised under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is useful where there are only a few suitable alternative employment roles available and not all employees can be kept on. It allows for more certainty for these employees in the long or short term, allowing them to explore other roles.

Redundancy Protected Period

Further protection has now been introduced by the Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, which came into effect on 6th April 2024. Prior to this act being introduced, it was just employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave that had priority when it came to suitable alternative employment. However, the act now looks to protect employees even in the early stages of pregnancy and upon returning from parental leave.

The ‘redundancy protected period’ under which an employee has redundancy protection will depend on when an employee discloses their pregnancy and the type of leave they take. This pregnancy protection period applies throughout the entire pregnancy and maternity leave, but also 6 months after this.

This protected period begins when an employee informs the employer of their pregnancy and ends 18 months from the date the baby is born. This protected period of pregnancy could also start after the pregnancy has ended. This introduces protections for employees that have had a stillbirth or a miscarriage, so that they are able to make use of this as much as if they had informed their employer of the pregnancy in the first instance.

If an employee has had a miscarriage within the first 24 week of being pregnant, then the protected period would finish 2 weeks after the end of their pregnancy. However, if an employee has a stillbirth after 24 weeks, then the protection period will finish 18 months after the birth date.

The new act as a whole has placed an enhanced duty of care on employers, encouraged inclusivity and will prompt them to ensure they have effective safeguards in place to provide basic rights for those going through redundancy whilst being pregnant or on maternity leave.

This article explores this new piece of legislation in greater detail

If an employee feels they have been targeted for redundancy whilst being pregnant or on maternity leave it is always wise to write to the employer to discuss this informally if they feel comfortable enough. This will allow the employer to investigate the matter and reach a resolution. A formal grievance would be the next stage if you are not satisfied with the informal outcome. This would allow the employee to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague and will prompt a formal investigation to be conducted by the employer and a formal outcome reached. If matters are not resolved internally, it may be wise to speak to ACAS to discuss external options and support available.

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