CIPP response to consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents
05 April 2019
The CIPP has submitted its formal response to the Government’s consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents.
This consultation was published at the end of January and recommended that the current protection afforded under the Maternity and Paternity Leave etc Regulations 1999 (which apply to the period of maternity leave) be extended to cover the period of pregnancy and a period after, an extension of 6 months. This is a commitment that was made in the government’s response to the Taylor Review, and had also previously been raised by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC).
- set out the current legal protections for pregnancy and maternity;
- asked how an extension of redundancy protection into a period of “return to work” might best work;
- asked whether similar protection should be afforded to other groups;
- set out the steps that the Government is taking to increase business and employer awareness of their rights and obligations, and invites comments on how they might be improved, to tackle pregnancy discrimination more effectively in general;
- considered the existing approach to the enforcement of employment and equalities legislation in the context of recommendations from WESC and the Taylor Review; and
- discussed the tribunal time limit.
We received 22 responses to the survey we ran on this consultation.
Key findings from the survey
75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that protections against redundancy for a period following return to work should be aligned with those already in place during maternity leave. Some of the reasons cited were:
- Experience of women being disadvantaged and unfairly selected for redundancy whilst on leave and in some cases a few months after they have returned to work
- To protect women especially if they return on a part-time basis
- Protection should be in place, but it should not mean that a returnee from Maternity leave would be placed in a role that they could not do and would, therefore, have a negative effect on the company, rather than someone who is skilled in that role being offered it first
When asking about the costs that an extension may bring, for the cost to businesses, responses included the possibility of losing the wrong people in a re-structure situation due to protections being in place. For the cost to individuals, responses included that additional responsibilities may be added to the role, and a higher risk of redundancy if not returning from Maternity leave due to being 'lower' in the order for possible restructuring.
The consultation also asked about what benefits the extension may bring and responses for business benefits included:
- Retaining qualified/experienced staff;
- Diverse employers who look out for everyone’s needs;
- Business would be able to better assess a person's skill once they are settled into the routine of their job, and therefore if the job is still required in a re-structure situation.
Responses for individual benefits included:
- Women would be less exploited;
- May encourage more women to return to work;
- It would benefit from a wellbeing perspective;
- Gives the individual a settling in period;
- For those returning better job security, however for others none.
We asked in our survey if 6 months would be an adequate period of “return to work” for redundancy protection purposes or did respondents think a different period of “return to work” would work better. 75% said yes, 6 months was adequate, 25% disagreed.
Comments included: It should be one year - some employers wait until the employee returns and then dismiss them on redundancy grounds within the 6 months of returning; Gives return to work mothers settling in time akin to a probationary period length - this is a fair amount of time to make it affordable for employers (depending on the size of the employer); 6 months is more than adequate, gives them a further advantage over all employees who could be part of a redundancy situation; 3 months would be classed as adequate as they are protected from beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave and this gives them up to 18 months of being out of scope for redundancy compared to their colleagues and could be deemed as advantageous for women.
The consultation asked should pregnancy for redundancy protection purposes be defined as starting at the point a woman informs her employer that she is pregnant in writing.
13% strongly agree, 13% agree, 37% disagree, 12 % strongly disagree and 25% remain neutral.
Following on from this question we asked if respondents felt that a different reference point should be used and if so, what it should be. Three quarters said yes, a different reference point should be used, comments included:
- 2-3 months prior to the expected week of confinement.
- At the point, the employee is leaving to start her maternity
- The woman could be unfairly dismissed before any other point if this is set after her formally informing her employers. One caveat would be if redundancy procedures had already begun.
The consultation also asked that if additional redundancy protection is extended to mothers returning to work after maternity leave, are there other forms of leave which should be considered also, citing as examples: adoption leave; shared parental leave and longer periods of parental leave. All respondents indicated that adoption leave should be considered, the majority thought shared parental leave should be considered and the last option received a half and half split between yes and no.
Our full response to the consultation is available on our website under My CIPP/Policy hub.
The CIPP policy team will continue to engage with The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and stakeholders regarding the proposals in this consultation and will keep members and readers updated accordingly.