An online statement by the UK government last year announced the possibility of a new law being introduced to protect pregnant women and new parents against redundancy. This proposed legislation aka Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill was introduced by Dan Jarvis MP and is meant to reasonably protect new parents from unfair redundancy practices, at a time when job security is most needed.
At present, the law has been backed by MPs and made its way into the House of Lords. The 1st reading is also over and the 2nd reading will happen sometime in March 2023. When introducing the new law, Business Minister Dean Russel said that this time, when someone is expecting a child, can fill anyone with not just excitement but also anxiety. With redundancies being in the news constantly, it is natural to worry about whether you could be next.
Adding to that, Dan Jarvis said no one should be penalised for having children. He was heartbroken to hear the story of a woman who was made redundant while pregnant. She was the only one to be laid off and suffered trying to make ends meet. Ultimately, she had a miscarriage.
It was after this story came to light, that Mr Jarvis decided to introduce the new bill. His belief this kind of discrimination towards pregnant women and new parents should not be happening in 2023 has been backed by many organisations like Unison and TUC.
In an online statement, Unison’s General Secretary Christina McAnea said that they were proud to be working with Mr Jarvis on this new bill as it will be a significant win for UK workers, especially women. They hope that the bill is supported by the House of Lords as well.
Currently, according to the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations, if an employee is to be made redundant, they must be offered alternative employment. When it comes to pregnant women or new parents, they are only protected up until the maternity leave period. And while suitable alternate roles “is entitled” to new parents, it is only practised in theory.
However, under the new proposed changes, it is not that pregnant women or new parents will be completely protected but the duration of protection will get extended. The bill proposes raising the period of protection from the moment the employer is made aware that the employee is pregnant. This extends to parents who are adopting or who have shared parental leave. The protection is then proposed to be extended until 18 months after the employee returns.
It is important to remember that this new bill will not completely shield new parents from redundancy. Rather, it will allow them more protection for a longer time and prioritise them over other employees. For example, if a new parent were to be made redundant along with other employees, the new parent will be offered alternate roles before anyone else.