Important changes from 6 April 2024 to the redundancy protection for pregnant employees and employees returning from family leave

News  |   2 April 2024

Written by
Julian Munroe, Associate Solicitor

April will see the implementation of a series of legal updates in Employment Law. One of these key changes relates to the protection that certain employees are given from redundancy.

Currently, employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave are afforded a degree of prioritisation in redundancy situations. Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 ensures that employees on Maternity Leave must be offered first refusal of any suitable alternative employment which may be available in a redundancy situation.

This protection will be extended. From 6 April 2024 the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will:

  • extend the duration of time that the employees on family leave will be protected in redundancy situations, and
  • create a new level of protection to pregnant employees in redundancy situations. The protection will be from the point of notifying their employers of their pregnancy, as opposed to when their maternity leave starts.

More detail in relation to the changes are set out below.

Key Notable Changes

Adoption Leave

Employees on Adoption Leave currently only have protection during their period of Adoption Leave. Under these new changes, provided the period of Adoption Leave ends on or after 6 April 2024, they will now receive protection for a period of 18 months from the date of placement for adoption.

Pregnancy

The current law does not afford any type of redundancy protection for employees on the sole basis of them being pregnant. However, under these new changes, if an employer is informed of the pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024 a pregnant employee will receive protection for the full period of pregnancy.

The period above is extended by a further two weeks after the end of the pregnancy, for pregnancies ending before 24 weeks.

For any pregnancies ending after 24 weeks (classed as stillbirths) the employee would be entitled to the full period of statutory Maternity Leave (as set out below) and the associated protection.

Maternity Leave

The protection for employees on Maternity Leave currently only protects them during their period of Maternity Leave. Under these new changes, they will now receive protection for a period of 18 months from i) the first date of the estimated week of childbirth, or ii) the actual date of birth. This is provided the employee informs the employer in writing of the actual date during their Maternity Leave. This only applies to a period of Maternity Leave ending on or after 6 April 2024.

Shared Parental Leave

Employees on Shared Parental Leave currently only have protection during their period of Shared Parental Leave. Under these new changes, provided the employee takes at least six weeks of continuous Shared Parental Leave they will receive a period 18 months’ protection from the child’s date of birth.

Warning for Employers

As you will likely note from these brief summaries, the changes will have a significant impact on employee’s rights and entitlements. One particularly notable change for employers to be wary of relates to Shared Parental Leave and the 18 months of protection an employee can now be entitled to should they take six weeks’ consecutive shared parental leave or more.

The impact of these incoming changes should not be underestimated. In a climate of vast organisational changes it is essential that employers are mindful of the new extended rights they will have to factor in and the likely increases to the number of employees with priority in redundancy situations.

Without the correct training, up-to-date information and full awareness, employers may fall foul of these key new legal changes. Any failure to comply with these provisions, whether unknowingly or not, would inevitably expose an employer to significant litigation risk including in respect automatic unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Such claims do not require any qualifying service and would also expose an employer to an uncapped financial awards.

How Thackray Williams can help

Thackray Williams has a team of expert Employment solicitors who can help your business set up processes and systems to best navigate these new changes. We are able to provide practical advice and bespoke training to employers with a commercial focus and supports you to put in measures to minimise the risk of inadvertently breaching these important new legal rights.

If you have any questions on how we can assist please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Employment team on 020 8290 0440.

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