Employment Partner Emma Gross featured in People Management discussing The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023

15 April 2024

From 6 April 2024, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will come into force, providing enhanced protection from redundancy for new or expectant parents.

Whilst pregnancy and maternity are protected characteristics under the Equality Act (2010) this hasn’t stopped discrimination from taking place. Many expectant or new mothers have reported discriminatory behaviour from their employers, whether it be their negative attitude to the news, a reluctance to promote, hesitancy when it comes to delegating work or a refusal to make reasonable adjustments.

Currently, parents on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave (SPL) are protected from redundancy during the period of their leave. Then, if a redundancy situation arises, a suitable alternative job must be offered, if one is available.

However, the new enhanced protection extends the priority status to pregnant employees and those who have recently returned from maternity/adoption leave and shared parental leave.

This enhanced protection now commences at the point when the expectant mother tells her employer that she is pregnant and ends 18 months from the child’s date of birth.

This new legislation doesn’t stop an employer from making the expectant mother redundant, but what it does do is insists that employers prioritise finding suitable alternative employment for them, essentially giving them priority status for redeployment opportunities in a redundancy situation.

New and expectant parents will be able to double their period of redundancy protection to a period of about two years so any employers contemplating a potential reorganisation of their business need to ensure that they’ve thought through the implications of this new protection and considered and pre-empted possible outcomes. Employers will have to give priority to new and expectant parents over and above all other employees so need to think long and hard about how to structure their business ensuring they have the appropriate skillsets in the appropriate departments. When it comes to suitable alternative employment, it is important to note that even if another at risk employee is considered better qualified for the vacancy, the employee in a priority position must be offered that position ahead of anyone else if it is a suitable alternative role.

Whilst this new protection is likely to be a headache for employers, expectant mothers, those on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave will feel a huge weight off their shoulders, knowing that their jobs have priority status and they have an extra layer of protection when it comes to risk of redundancy.

Employers should be prepared for earlier notifications of pregnancy, and potentially an increase in employees wanting to take shared parental leave. Employers should bear in mind that a failure to offer a priority employee a suitable alternative vacancy would mean the employee has a claim for automatic unfair dismissal and potentially also discrimination.

This new legislation represents a significant step toward safeguarding the rights of pregnant employees and those returning from family leave during redundancy situations.

Read more about this topic, including comments from Emma, in People Management’s guide for employers: Changes to redundancy law for new and expectant parents: an employer’s guide

Emma Gross
Partner – Employment, Data Protection
Emma Gross is a Partner Solicitor at Spencer West. She specialises in Complex employment tribunal cases, data protection and the GDPR, negotiating settlements and advising on fair and reasonable redundancy procedures.