• International Workplace
  • 15 July 2020

New bill offers greater redundancy protection for pregnant women and new mothers

After failing to complete its passage through parliament in 2019, a bill designed to give pregnant women and new mothers greater protections against redundancy has been reintroduced in parliament.

This comes at a time when there has been a noted increase in the numbers of pregnant women and those on maternity leave being lost to the workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, Maria Miller MP has put the Pregnancy and Maternity Redundancy Protection Bill to the House of Commons as a private members bill.

She said:

“Every year, 53,000 women leave their jobs when pregnant because of how they’ve been treated. My bill strengthens existing laws to better protect pregnant women and new mothers by prohibiting employers from making them redundant.”

The Bill has received considerable support from pregnancy, maternity and women’s charities and campaigners, who fear that as furlough winds down over the next few months women will unfairly be targeted for redundancy.

Director of Maternity Action, Rosalind Bragg, said:

“The current law on redundancy and maternity is complex, poorly understood and difficult to enforce. It is desperately unfair that mothers are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, having to battle unfair redundancies as well as taking on an increased share of domestic work.”

According to Bragg, a “classic case of unfair and unlawful redundancy” is where women on maternity leave are made redundant while their cover is kept on. Also, she says, employers often don’t appear to understand that the government pays for statutory maternity leave so pregnant women don’t have to be expensive.

Another misconception is that pregnant women or those on maternity leave are not focused on the job. Joeli Brearley, founder of ‘Pregnant then screwed’ said:

“Pregnant women are viewed as distracted and can’t be committed to their job if they are about to take some time out of their career to care for a new baby. When women return from maternity leave, they are also extremely vulnerable as the business has been operating without them for the last nine months so they’re not at the forefront of an employer’s mind.”

Brearley proposes that businesses could support mothers by introducing increased flexibility to enable staff to juggle work and caring responsibilities.

The Pregnancy and Maternity Redundancy Protection Bill offers similar redundancy protections covering women in Germany. It was successfully reintroduced by Miller as a 10-minute rule bill (a type of members’ bill), but no further action will be taken until 16 October, when it is scheduled for its second reading.