Bill extending rights for women returning from maternity leave moves forward

A Bill to extend legal protections for women who have been on maternity leave has got through to the next stage in Parliament and is expected to become law later this year.

Maternity Notice letter

Close-up Of A Woman's Hand Filling Maternity Leave Form Holding Pen Over Desk

A Private Member’s Bill extending pregnancy and maternity protections has passed to the next stage and is expected to become law in England, Wales and Scotland later in the year.

Labour MP Dan Jarvis’ Bill was approved by MPs on Friday and now goes to the House of Lords. It has Government support and was  to have been included in the now shelved Employment Bill.

Under the Bill pregnant women will see the protection from redundancy they currently have being extended to cover the moment a woman tells her boss she is pregnant until the child is 18 months old.

Currently, under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Paternity Leave Regulations 1999, a woman on maternity leave whose job is being made redundant, “is entitled to be offered (before the end of her employment under her existing contract) alternative employment” with her employer or an associated employer, in any suitable vacancy available that offers work appropriate for her and terms not substantially worse than her previous job. Other regulations extend similar protections to those on adoption leave and shared parental leave.

Under the new Bill, the 18-month window ensures that a mother returning from a year of maternity leave can receive six months additional redundancy protection than she does now. The 18-month window will also apply to Maternity Leave and Shared Parental Leave.

Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that 54,000 women a year lose their job for getting pregnant while three in four working mums say they have experienced pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Campaigners welcome the legislation, but note that legal protection is only one part of the problem and that enforcement is crucial.

Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said: “No one should be penalised for having children, but too often women are.

“The pandemic exacerbated workplace inequalities and today families are facing one of the worst cost-of-living crises in living memory. What new parents need at the very least is job security.

“My Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill is a step towards providing working families with security and dignity in the workplace. I’m proud it has cross-party support, including the backing of Unison, Fawcett Society, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

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