Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents
08 May 2019
The Women and Equalities Select Committee has published its response to the Government 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).
Response of the Women and Equalities Select Committee
In broad summary, the Select Committee welcome and agree with the proposals to provide an additional period of protection against redundancy for new mothers and indeed other groups, and further welcome the increased information provision. However, the Committee is of the view that the proposals made in the consultation document need to go further and robustly address the issue of enforcement of existing and new rights.
A summary of the Committee’s recommendation follows:
Redundancy Protection – expectant and new mothers
The Committee support an extension to the protections against redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave, for a period of 6 months following their return to work. Given that its 2016 inquiry report recommended that this change be made within 2 years, a timeframe which has now passed, the Committee hopes the Government commits to implementing this reform as soon as possible.
Redundancy Protection - other groups
The Committee would strongly agree that any extension of protection also apply to those on adoption leave or shared parental leave. It agrees in principle that there should also be extended protection for those on longer periods of parental leave but would welcome clarity on what forms of parental leave would qualify.
Information provision and awareness of rights
The Committee welcome the existing steps taken by the Government, but in line with evidence it has received, invite the Government to go further in setting up (in consultation with relevant stakeholders) a single comprehensive website for employers and individuals. It is vital that the information be full but easily accessible and easy to understand.
In addition, the Committee asks that the Government work with relevant stakeholders including the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, to ensure frontline health professionals can provide basic advice to women and signpost them to further information and resources. This would also help to ensure that individuals who do not have access to the internet can obtain the relevant information.
The Committee repeat the recommendation made in its 2016 report, that large companies should be required to report on retention rates for women 12 months after returning from maternity leave and 12 months after lodging an application for flexible working.
In the consultation, the Government references the Good Work Plan which seeks to implement the recommendations of the Taylor Review, including the proposals to create a new, single labour market enforcement agency. The Committee would like some clarity on this; particularly the question of how this agency will ensure that maternity and pregnancy rights are being protected. In the Committee’s ongoing inquiry on Enforcing the Equality Act, it heard oral evidence from Sir David Metcalf, director of Labour Market Enforcement. When asked about the Public Sector Equality Duty, he stated was not familiar with the duty. Nor could he offer any information or insight into how this new enforcement agency would tackle maternity (or other) discrimination. This was of concern to the Committee.
The Committee would welcome further detail into the scope of the new enforcement agency, as well as confirmation that this agency will be tackling maternity and pregnancy discrimination as part of their core function.
Employment Tribunal Time Limit
The Committee welcomes the Government’s commitment to undertaking a consultation on changing employment tribunal time limits for claims relating to discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
The Committee recommend that any consultation process into extending the time limit for pregnancy/maternity discrimination claims be put in motion swiftly and take in account the already widespread support for increasing the time limit for claims from three months to six months.
The full response is available through the link below.