Pregnant and stressed about redundancy: ask the expert

Can an employee request to be made redundant during the redundancy process due to the stress of the ongoing process? My wife is due to leave work in three weeks and today has been advised she’s in a pool of people for redundancy. It may be beneficial for her to be made redundant so can we request this on medical grounds?

If your wife is finding the redundancy process too stressful, she should visit her doctor. It may be that her doctor decides she is not fit enough to work and may sign her off on sick leave. An employee who is absent from work due to illness will normally be able to take sick leave until she starts her statutory maternity leave. If the illness is unrelated to the pregnancy, she can continue to take sick leave up to the date she starts her ordinary maternity leave.

However, if the illness is related to the pregnancy and the employee is at least 36 weeks pregnant, her ordinary maternity leave will be triggered by her sick leave. In your wife’s case, the sick leave would be related to “stress” so would probably not be attributable to the pregnancy.

You state that it may be beneficial for your wife to be selected for redundancy. Has the employer asked for volunteers for redundancy? Your wife would not be able to legally argue that she should be made redundant because she is finding the process stressful, but there would be nothing stopping her from having a “without prejudice”  discussion with her employer to suggest she would consider voluntary redundancy.

If an employee is dismissed before starting her ordinary maternity leave, she will lose her rights to statutory maternity leave. However, if an employee is dismissed or selected for redundancy, where the only (or principal) reason for her dismissal or redundancy selection is related to pregnancy, birth or maternity leave, the dismissal will be automatically unfair. It will also constitute pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

If your wife starts her maternity leave before the redundancy process is complete, there are special rules which apply.  If a redundancy situation arises during an employee’s maternity leave and “it is not practicable by reason of redundancy” for the employer to continue to employ her under her existing contract, the employee is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (where one is available) to start immediately after her existing contract ends. This includes a vacancy with an associated employer. The new contract offered to the employee must be such that:

– the work to be done is both suitable and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances.

– the capacity and place in which she is to be employed, and the other terms and conditions of her employment, are no less favourable to her than if she had continued to be employed in her old job. This gives the employee on maternity leave priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy. If the employer does not comply with this requirement, the employee will have a claim for automatically unfair dismissal and, arguably, pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Should you require further information and advice regarding your wife’s situation, please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.

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