An employee who is made redundant whilst on maternity leave has priority over other redundant employees for any suitable alternative vacancies which are available. The government has committed to extending that priority period so that it starts from the point that a pregnant employee informs the employer of her pregnancy (whether verbally or in writing) and ends six months from the end of her maternity leave.
The fact that the priority period can be triggered by a verbal communication from a pregnant employee may give rise to practical issues. Employers will need to ensure that managers and HR are trained to identify and record such communications to ensure that they do not fall foul of the law. On the other hand, the right could potentially be abused by employees falsely claiming to be pregnant when they are not. It will be interesting to see whether the draft legislation provides any safeguards for this, for example, by requiring an employee to provide medical evidence of pregnancy within a certain timeframe after any such communication.
Employees returning to work from adoption leave will be entitled to the same six months redeployment priority period. However, the government does not consider that parents returning from paternity leave require this protection given its short term (maximum two weeks) duration.
The government is also proposing to give those returning from shared parental leave similar rights although it notes that a different approach will need to be taken due to the difference in nature between shared parental leave and maternity/adoption leave. The government will work with stakeholders to develop a workable solution and will bring forward legislation when Parliamentary time allows. This seems a sensible approach.
A Taskforce of employer and family representative groups will also be established to make recommendations on what improvements can be made to the information available to employers and families on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The Taskforce will also develop an action plan to help the government and other organisations make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to remain in work.
A copy of the government's response can be found here
The original consultation considered the WESC's recommendation that the three month time limit for bringing a claim in pregnancy and maternity discrimination cases should be extended to six months. This proposal is now being considered in the GEO's consultation on preventing workplace harassment and sexual discrimination (please click here for more information)