Expected to come into force on 6th April 2024, the Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 introduce significant enhancements to the existing legal framework. One crucial aspect of these regulations is the reinforced protection against discrimination for pregnancy and maternity, as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.
Protection from Discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity and requires employers to treat employees fairly during this crucial period. This protection encompasses various aspects, including recruitment, terms and conditions, promotion, and redundancy. In addition to the Equality Act specific protections apply in relation to redundancy.
Extended Protection Against Redundancy
The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024, extend the existing protections in redundancy situations. With effect from 6th April 2024 protection will apply from the point of pregnancy up to 18 months after the expected week of childbirth or the actual date of birth. This extended period ensures that pregnant employees and new mothers are shielded from unfair dismissal due to redundancy, however it does not mean that redundancy is not possible.
The period of protection is a long one, a lot can happen in business in this time and there will be occasions where redundancy is necessary for the business. The protection requires that anyone in the protected period, including maternity, adoption and shared parental leave, is offered suitable alternative employment where it exists.
The Maternity Leave, Adoption Leave, and Shared Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2024 mark a significant step towards enhancing the protection of employees during pregnancy and maternity. While employers are encouraged to explore alternatives, the regulations acknowledge the realities of business operations, allowing necessary adaptations while upholding the rights of employees.
These are complex situations, advice should always be sought prior to redundancies to ensure dismissals are fair particularly where they involve someone pregnant, on (or recently been on) maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.
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Article last updated: 3 January 2024
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