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28 Mar 2024

Enhanced redundancy protection for employees on family leave

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Currently, employees who are on maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave are entitled to be offered any suitable alternative vacancies before being made redundant and in priority to other employees not on such leave (i.e. they have a first right of refusal in such circumstances).

The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 will extend those protections to also cover a protected period of pregnancy and a period after the parent returns to work.

From 6 April 2024, the redundancy protection for:

• pregnant employees who take maternity leave will start from the date they notify their employer of their pregnancy and will end 18 months after either the child's date of birth (if the employee has informed their employer) or 18 months from the expected week of childbirth (if the employee has not informed their employer of the date of birth).

• pregnant employees who unfortunately have a miscarriage will start from the date they notify their employer of their pregnancy and will end two weeks after the end of their pregnancy, if the pregnancy ends before 24 weeks. Pregnancies that end after 24 weeks are classed as stillbirths and the employee would be entitled to statutory maternity leave.

• employees on adoption leave will start when their adoption leave begins and will end 18 months from the child's placement date or the date the child enters Great Britain (if it is an overseas adoption).

• employees on shared paternal leave (who have not taken maternity or adoption leave) will start when their shared parental leave begins and will end:

  • At the end of shared parental leave, if the employee takes less than six consecutive weeks of shared parental leave.
     
  • 18 months from the child's birth date/placement date/date they enter Great Britain, if the employee has taken at least six or more consecutive weeks of shared parental leave.

As a reminder, these regulations give employees priority status if there are any suitable alternative vacancies. They do not prevent those employees from being selected for redundancy if there are no suitable alternative vacancies. Failure to offer employees with priority status suitable alternative roles, if they are available, may result in claims of automatically unfair dismissal and/or discrimination.

If you are planning a restructuring in 2024, then you will need to consider the implications of these new regulations. In particular, it will be important to:

1. Have accurate records of family leave start dates, pregnancy notification dates and the dates of any miscarriages. This is so that you can calculate the protection periods.

2. Train managers on the new regulations and their implications, as the regulations will mean that more employees have priority status.

3. Ensure that you have systems in place to identify roles that are potentially suitable alternatives for employees with priority status.

Carer's leave and paternity leave changes

As a reminder, from 6 April 2024:

• employees who care for a dependant with long-term care needs will be entitled to one week of unpaid leave per year (see more information in our recent e-alert on this change).

• there are changes as to how employees can take paternity leave and the notice they are required to give their employer (see more information in our recent e-alert on this change).

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Paul Reeves

Paul Reeves
Head of employment

T:  +44 20 7809 2916 M:  +44 7919 694 135 Email Paul | Vcard Office:  London