The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has today (Friday 25 January 2019) launched a consultation that proposes to extend the current discrimination protections for pregnant women and new parents returning to work.
The consultation, which will run for 10 weeks until 5 April 2019, suggests that the legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers on maternity leave, as detailed in the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Rights Act 1996, should be extended to six months after they return to work. The consultation also seeks views on how this protection could be offered to employees returning from adoption or shared parental leave.
Theresa May, prime minister, said: “People in this country already benefit from some of the most rigorous workplace standards in the world, including parental leave and pay entitlements, but we are determined to do even more as we leave the [European Union (EU)].
“It’s unacceptable that too many parents still encounter difficulties when returning to work. Today’s proposals are set to provide greater protection for new parents in the workplace and put their minds at ease at this important time.”
The consultation seeks opinions on how an extension of existing redundancy protections would work best, how long this protection should be offered for and whether similar protection should be afforded to other groups returning from long-term childcare leave. It further outlines the steps that the government is taking to increase employees’ awareness of their rights and employers’ awareness on their obligations, inviting responses on how this could be improved to combat potential discrimination more effectively.
The consultation will also consider the current approach to the enforcement of employment and equalities legislation, in the context of recommendations from the Women and Equalities Select Committee and the Taylor Review, and will discuss the three-month time limit within which a discrimination claim can ordinarily be brought to Employment Tribunal (ET).
The measures being consulted on form part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, which was published last year.
Statutory requirements currently offer UK employees up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, of which 39 weeks are paid, paternity leave and pay, and shared parental leave. In addition, all employees with 26 weeks’ of service have a right to request flexible working.
Rachel Suff, employee relations adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “Discrimination not only disadvantages individuals, it also means that employers themselves are missing out on key talent. Organisations should be actively taking steps to stamp out any discrimination, as well as supporting flexible working arrangements and progression opportunities for parent returners.
“The consultation is also an important opportunity for organisations to shape proposals that could extend the same legal protection against redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers on maternity leave to parents returning from adoption leave or shared parental leave. These kinds of family-friendly regulations and policies play a vital role in fostering inclusive and productive cultures where everyone can thrive and perform to their full potential while balancing commitments at home.”