The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened a consultation at the beginning of the year regarding proposals to extend redundancy protection for new mothers from the date that they notify their employer in writing of their pregnancy to six months after their return from maternity leave. The consultation also sought views on whether this protection should be extended to others taking similar leave, such as adoption leave and shared parental leave.
On 1 May 2019, the Women and Equalities Select Committee published its response to the proposals. The Committee’s response supported the proposed extension and called on the government to implement the reform as soon as possible. There was also strong agreement by the Committee regarding extending the protection to those on shared parental and adoption leave. The Committee called on the government to set up a website for employers and individuals, and to work with the General Medical Council and the National Midwifery Council to ensure that health professionals are able to provide basic advice and point women to further information and resources.
On 20 May 2019, the Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill 2019 was introduced. The bill will not include a total prohibition on redundancy, instead it will seek to prevent making employees redundant during pregnancy, maternity leave and for six months following the end of maternity leave (except where the employer ceases to carry on business where the pregnant woman or new mother is employed). The bill would extend to women who experience a stillbirth or miscarriage by protecting them for up to six months from the end of their pregnancy or any leave to which they were entitled.
The proposed bill is inspired by the German model where employers are unable to make a new or expectant mother redundant unless they have the permission of a specific public authority (this is only given in exceptional circumstances).