The beginning of February marked a significant step forward for pregnant workers and new parents, as a bill to provide new and expecting parents with additional protections in the workplace passed its third reading.
UNISON worked with Dan Jarvis MP on the new law – the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill – to prevent employers from laying off expectant mothers and new parents, by extending redundancy protections to six months.
Raising a family is becoming even more expensive as the cost of living crisis continues. What new parents often need most is job security, but pregnant workers and new parents are too often first in line for redundancy.
Around three quarters of working mums currently experience maternity discrimination and 54,000 pregnant women are forced out of their jobs each year.
In theory, the law already gives women on maternity leave priority over other employees at risk of redundancy – a woman on maternity leave is “entitled to be offered” any suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available, as soon as her job is at risk of redundancy.
However, in practice, this is often not happening. Those who have just given birth or have been away from the workplace for months, are unlikely to pursue an employment tribunal claim. So, it’s hardly surprising that maternity discrimination cases form a disproportionately low percentage of UNISON’s legal caseload.
To make matters worse, many maternity protections are under attack through the Retained EU Law Bill, including protections against discrimination for pregnant women and women on maternity leave, and the right to suitable alternative work on no less favourable terms.
Without these core protections, UK workers – especially women – will be thrown back to the 1970s, which means the bill is even more urgent.
This new law will represent a significant win for UNISON members as well as add greater workplace protections to the statute book, and I hope it receives the full support of the House of Lords too.