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Committee makes further recommendations in response to government consultation

In January 2019, the government released a consultation seeking views on the extension to redundancy protection for pregnant employees and those who have returned to work after their maternity leave period. The consultation asked whether redundancy protection should start from the date the employee informs their employer, in writing, that they are pregnant. It is also asking whether protection finishing six months after the employee returns to work is sufficient, to ensure those who are newly returned to work are not losing the protection they were afforded whilst on maternity leave. The consultation closed in April.

In their response to the consultation, which has now been published, the Women and Equalities Committee were positive about the extension in redundancy protection but have made further recommendations to ensure the protection for pregnant and working mothers is comprehensive. The main recommendation is that the government should introduce mandatory publication of retention rates for female workers returning to work so employers are required to be transparent about how their working practices affect working mothers. The figures which the Committee calls to be published are:

  • the retention rates for new mothers once a period of 12 months has passed from the date they return from maternity leave and
  • the retention rates for new mothers once a period of 12 months has passed from making a flexible working request.

As well as revealing these retention rates, the Committee made further recommendations including extending the current three-month time limit to bring a claim to an employment tribunal to six months; creating an awareness website which provides detailed guidance for both new parents and their employers; and requiring an improvement in health and safety practices.

These recommendations have been submitted as a response to the government’s consultation, therefore, we may see a response from the government in due course. There is, however, no requirement on the government to introduce requirements on employers to publish retention rates for new mothers, although there has been a positive movement towards reporting and transparency requirements in recent years.

With employers awaiting confirmation of whether redundancy protection will be extended, organisations are encouraged to ensure they are aware of the protections and additional rights that are afforded to pregnant employees or those on maternity leave. It is key that any unfavourable or harassing treatment is avoided and employees are not selected for redundancy, or singled out, because they are on maternity leave or are a new mother. Discrimination claims could lead to organisations facing an unlimited pay out and suffering reputational damage.

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