Unfair redundancy and pregnancy discrimination – the law

Pregnant woman at work

The UK Government has been called on to urgently act on its commitment to review protection from redundancy. Ministers made this commitment in January 2017 but have yet to act on it.

The urgent call for change comes from Maternity Action who published a report on the impact of unfair redundancies on pregnant women and new mothers. Maternity Action is the UK’s leading charity committed to ending inequality and improving the health and well-being of pregnant women, their partners and children.

The report advises that each year there are 500,000 pregnant women in the workplace. One in 20 mothers are made redundant either during their pregnancy, maternity leave or upon their return to work, with many being discriminatory and unfair.

The timing of these redundancies varies, with 1% of women made redundant whilst pregnant, 3% on maternity leave and 2% on their return to work from maternity leave. An additional 3% of mothers had discussed redundancy with their employer.

Alongside the legal framework for all employees in redundancy situations, there is additional protection for pregnant women and women on maternity leave.

Women on maternity leave are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy, if one exists, if their role is redundant at any time during their 52 week maternity leave period.

Failure to offer a suitable alternative role may amount to unfair dismissal. It may also amount to pregnancy or maternity related discrimination if the reason an alternative role was not offered relates to the woman’s pregnancy or absence on maternity leave.

If your employer is considering making your role redundant then there must be a genuine redundancy situation for a dismissal to be fair. This is where the employer needs fewer employees to do the work or the business is closing down or moving location.

You can be dismissed for redundancy fairly as long as there is a fair selection process including consultation and the offer of any suitable alternative work if available. You should be paid any notice pay and redundancy pay that you may be entitled to.

If you feel you have been made redundant due to being pregnant, on maternity leave or upon your return to work from maternity leave please get in touch with a specialist employment lawyer who can advise you further.