If you need to restructure your organisation and make redundancies, then you need to be very careful about the way you treat any pregnant employees or any women on maternity leave.
The beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave is a ‘protected period’ in which a woman is entitled to special consideration.
If you choose a woman for redundancy because of her pregnancy or maternity leave, then it's an automatically unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination.
To ensure that you are being fair you should:
You must make sure that the redundancy isn't because of the woman’s pregnancy or maternity leave.
A genuine reason for redundancy could be the closure of the business.
You have to consult employees on maternity leave about possible redundancies.
You need to talk about the reason for redundancy and consider any alternative job opportunities. You also have to discuss how the employees were selected for redundancy.
If you don’t consult your employee, then it's likely that this will be discrimination and will make the process unfair.
If you're worried about disturbing your employee while she’s on maternity leave, then discuss with her the best way to contact her before she starts her leave.
The selection process must apply to everyone and all the employees should know about it.
You could consider the employee’s qualifications, performance, attendance record and disciplinary record.
When considering your employee’s attendance record you need to make a discount for pregnancy- and maternity-related absences.
If there is a suitable alternative job available, then a woman on maternity leave who has been chosen for redundancy must be offered this job before any other employee or the redundancy will not be fair.
The alternative job must be no worse in terms of location, pay and status.
If your employee qualifies for maternity pay and is made redundant after the beginning of the 15th week before the baby is due, then you still have to pay them maternity pay as well as any redundancy pay.
The government reimburses statutory maternity pay.
This article has been adapted from Lawpack’s Employment Law Made Easy.
If you want more in-depth information – from an employment lawyer – about all aspects of employment law, then read our guide Employment Law Made Easy. Packed with tips and expert advice on complying with employment legislation.
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Published on: April 12, 2014