Sadly, many women learn that whilst pregnant or on maternity leave their job status changes to ‘at risk of becoming redundant’. And many people believe that an employer should not be able to make a pregnant women redundant. Indeed there are enhanced protections for pregnant women and those off on maternity leave, however, these are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. Certainly currently, regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 states that, if a woman on maternity leave is selected for redundancy, she must be given priority over other redundant employees when the employer offers suitable alternative employment.
But what does that mean?
Firstly if you are pregnant women or alternatively a new mother and it’s only your position that is subject to redundancy, it is likely something is definitely not right and your employer could be trying to use redundancy as an excuse to remove you from your job, because you have fallen pregnant. If this is the case, you would have a claim for sex discrimination.
However, if you are in a job that many fellow colleagues also do and the whole department is up for redundancy, say for example, you are a call centre staff member and the department is closing or being relocated, then it is possible that your redundancy is legitimate. In this case you might have to put it down to poor timing. Despite this, however, as stated above in the legislation extract, you should in turn be given priority for other jobs or re-deployment in the company or organisation over your other colleagues who are also facing redundancy. Oftentimes employers even go the extra mile and slot pregnant women/ new mums into jobs in a new structure in the early stages of redundancy consultation.
So in short you can be made redundant whilst pregnant, but we recommend that you pay careful attention to the circumstances and the business rationale you are given to why you are being made redundant and in particular what the business appears to be doing to protect you and your job.
At the time of writing the government is proposing significant changes to legislation to extend the existing protection to pregnant women and new mothers. This might mean the ‘priority’ for suitable alternative jobs is extended to those that have declared they are pregnant, those who have returned to work in the previous six months after maternity leave and even adoptive parents.
If you have a question about your rights on maternity or on redundancy, download the HR Solver app today for free and initiate chat with our HR experts.