30 Jan 2019
The government has proposed a new law that will protect women from redundancy for six months after returning to work. Here’s what this could mean for your business…
A recent survey showed that one in nine mothers have:
- Suffered redundancy.
- Been dismissed.
- Received such poor treatment that they’ve felt forced to leave their job.
This statistic might shock you, for many reasons. Common decency is one.
Another is that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is illegal. Businesses risk a tribunal and a hefty fine if they break this law.
Pregnancy at work is an emotive issue. And it’s one that your business needs to get right. Here are the facts about maternity leave, and what the proposed law to protect women from redundancy could mean for your business.
What are the current laws on discrimination?
Women in the UK are protected against discrimination from when they become pregnant until the end of their maternity leave.
You can’t dismiss an employee due to pregnancy or maternity leave. You can’t discourage her from seeking a promotion or applying for a new role due to pregnancy or maternity leave. And you can’t refuse her training requests due to pregnancy or maternity leave.
The penalty for breaking this law?
A tribunal, a big fine, and serious reputational damage for your business.
Most great UK businesses work hard to support parents. And for the businesses that don’t, you’d think that the fear of prosecution would be enough to prevent discrimination…
But the reality is different. Despite the legal protection, according to one survey 54,000 women in the UK risk losing their job this year because of pregnancy. Which raises the question…
How do businesses get away with it?
To find out how, it’s worth looking at the real-life stories behind the statistics.
There are cases where women have returned to work to find themselves demoted or forced into new roles without warning.
Other women have reported going to ‘keeping-in-touch’ days only to be handed redundancy papers. And one sleep deprived new mother who worked for an FTSE-listed business was even pressured to sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep the case out of court.
Businesses that treat new mothers unfairly are taking a huge risk. And many do pay the price when they get taken to a tribunal. But despite this, discrimination horror stories are not uncommon. That’s what the new law hopes to change.
How will the proposed law affect my business?
Currently, if your business is going through a redundancy process then a woman on maternity leave has the right to first refusal of a suitable alternative vacancy before all other employees. But this stops when she returns to work.
If the proposed law comes into force, women will get this protection from the point that she informs her employer she is pregnant until six months after returning from maternity leave. It may also apply to adoption and other parental leave.
Many businesses and consumer groups have applauded the proposal. And it’s hard to argue against any effort to increase protection for women in the workplace.
But others have questioned whether the law goes far enough. Some argue that discrimination due to pregnancy and maternity is already illegal, yet businesses simply ignore the law. So will extending the time period for protections that already exist make a difference to unfair working practices?
The government launched a ten-week consultation on its proposal in January 2019, so hopefully we’ll have some answers later this year.
It’s a sensitive issue, but you’re not alone
If you’re struggling with the law around maternity leave in your workplace, call Croner.
We make the law simple and find the best way to protect your business and support your staff when they become parents. Get the answers you need today. Call 01455 858 132.
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