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The Bar Council says it supports the extension of redundancy protection for those returning from extended parental leave.
In its response to government consultation on extending redundancy protection, the Bar Council, which represents all 16,000 barristers in England and Wales, suggests that doing so could lead to an overall reduction in the gender pay gap, as well as an increase in the diversity of the workplace.
It says: ”The benefit is likely to be increasing the diversity of the workplace, boosting the economic productivity of maternity returners, ensuring a better return on the investment in women at work who have children, reducing the attrition of skills and talent and overall reducing the gender pay gap in many instances. It would also ensure a greater understanding of rights and obligations, which would avoid misunderstandings, grievances and possibly also litigation, which would save time and costs for individuals and businesses alike.”
The Bar Council would like to see the protection extending from the point of pregnancy [rather than the point employers are formally notified of pregnancy] to one year after return to work – six months more than the period proposed by government and that this should be the case for those returning from other forms of extended parental and adoption leave. It says: “We consider that the vulnerability may be even greater for a returner as employers may have held off executing decisions made during maternity leave until the return from leave or may be labouring under the erroneous impression that a pregnant woman cannot be made redundant, whereas there is no legal protection for a woman returning from maternity leave.”
The Bar Council also suggested that the existing law concerning the protection afforded to pregnant women and those returning to work from maternity leave was not well understood by employers or employers and recommended that easily accessible information about employment rights relating to pregnancy and maternity should be easily available in clinics, hospitals, surgeries and other similar places. Barristers also suggested it was arguable that a responsibility ought to be placed on employers to provide information to workers and called for ACAS and the EHRC to update their guidance.