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New family friendly rights in the pipeline

View profile for Melissa Nelson
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Current position?

Employees on maternity leave have the right to be prioritised over other employees who are at risk of redundancy if a suitable alternative vacancy is available. Parents on adoption leave have the same protection, as do parents on shared parental leave.

If an employer does not comply with these requirements, the employee will have a claim for automatically unfair dismissal.

What is changing?

The Government is going to extend protection to cover:

  • Pregnant employees from the point at which they tell their employer that they are pregnant (in writing or orally), until six months after the end of maternity leave. 
  • Employees returning from adoption leave, for a 6 month period after the adoption leave.
  • Parents returning from shared parental leave. 

What about employees returning from paternity leave?

The government has decided not to extend redundancy protection to employees returning from paternity leave due to the short length of the leave.


The Government intends to extend redundancy protection as above “when Parliamentary time allows”.  When this will actually happen therefore is anyone’s guess as I suspect they’re fairly busy at the moment!

How the extended protection for parents returning from shared parental leave will work hasn’t yet been determined.  It is thought likely that any period of protection will be proportionate to the period of shared parental leave taken.  Some employees may choose to take only a short period of leave and would not be exposed to the same risk of discrimination as a mother returning from a lengthy spell of maternity leave.  We can only hope that the rules around extending redundancy protection aren’t as complicated as the shared parental leave scheme itself.

The fact protection can kick in at the point an employee verbally informs their employer of their pregnancy could give rise to evidential issues if no record of the discussion is kept.  Arguments may arise at a later date over when the protection began to run.

Potential niggles aside however, any measures aimed at eliminating pregnancy and maternity discrimination are to be welcomed.  With pregnant women and mothers reporting more discrimination and poor treatment at work in this decade than in the last one, something has to change and this appears to be a step in the right direction.


If you would like more advice regarding family rights, get in touch for a friendly and informal chat about your business needs today.

Call 01622 759 900 or email