Last month the government unveiled plans for new legislation that will mean that pregnant women and parents returning to work will receive greater protection from redundancy.

The government announced it would begin consulting on extending legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women for six months after they return to work.

The 10-week consultation recommends maternity and parental leave (MAPLE) regulations be extended to cover a six-month period after a new mother returns to work. It could potentially also be applied to others, including men, who return from adoption leave or shared parental leave.

Under current regulations, if redundancies are being made, employers have an obligation to offer those on maternity or shared parental leave a “suitable alternative vacancy” where one is available, giving these employees priority over others who are also at risk of redundancy. However, this provision ends when an individual returns to work.

The consultation cited research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that found one in nine (11 per cent) 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.

The BEIS study also estimated 54,000 women a year may lose their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity.
Separate research published last year found fewer than one in five women feel confident returning to work after maternity leave. The survey also found more than a third (37 per cent) felt so isolated they considered resigning.

The government also committed to exploring evidence for changing employment tribunal time limits for claims relating to discrimination, harassment and victimisation, “including on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity”.

The government said tribunals could already allow the three-month time limit to be extended in discrimination cases if it is considered this “just and equitable” given the circumstances of the case. It hoped the consultation would build on previous work to gather data on the success rate of “out of time” tribunal claims for pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents will end on 5 April.

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