Lincolnshire

Friday Focus: Should women on maternity leave get protection from redundancy for six months after they return?

Government is set to consider proposals to protect new mothers from redundancy from the start of pregnancy through to six months after they return to work, but how would this impact on Lincolnshire’s SMEs?

The call for more protection came from Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee following reports that pregnancy-related discrimination cases doubled in the last decade, with current figures standing at 54,000.

However, this could cause additional difficulties for local businesses who are already processing redundancy and restructuring plans.

Chris Moses, managing director of Sleaford-based Personnel Advice and Solutions Ltd said: “Pregnant workers already enjoy a number of protections in relation redundancy, such as being automatically entitled to first pick of any vacancies within a business, if their redundancy is confirmed.

“The proposed changes would extend those entitlements for up to 26 weeks after the birth of the child.

“As a result, any selective redundancy process, in which only a set number of employees were to be made redundant, would have to avoid choosing female staff for a potential period of 66 weeks, comprising the 40 weeks of the pregnancy, followed by the new entitlement.”

However this also means that businesses facing unavoidable redundancy where the closure of an entire department or even branch of a business, could be forced to offer females who are within this protected criteria first option of vacancies they may have in other departments or locations.

Chris continued: “The problem for employers is there are only a limited number of other jobs that can be offered, and they would prefer to keep their top performers.

“In addition, many new mothers often want to reduce their working hours to accommodate child care.

“As a consequence, redundancy and restructuring processes may need to be more investigative and creative, to ensure that whilst accommodating females fall within the protected characteristic, whilst holding on to the skill and talent businesses need.

“Initiatives such as job share, flexible working, compressed hours and commissioned outcomes would need closer investigation.”