Under UK law, women on maternity leave and parents on shared parental leave or adoption leave who are selected for redundancy have the right to be given first refusal on any suitable alternative vacancy. This applies even if you have a better candidate you would prefer to appoint.  If you don't offer the protected employee the available role, he or she can claim they have been automatically unfairly dismissed. They don't have to have worked for you for at least two years either as the usual rules about the minimum period of service don't apply.

The government is asking businesses and other interested parties whether this protection should be extended from the date the woman notifies their employer they are pregnant (in writing) and for six months after they return to work - a right that would also be available to returning parents who have taken shared parental leave or adoption leave.

The consultation closes on 5 April 2019.

Why is the government considering changing the law?

There is evidence that new mothers (in particular) are forced out of work when they seek to return. The pressure group Pregnant Then Screwed has pages of horrifying personal stories from women across lots of different sectors and the #metoo movement has brought these issues into the mainstream media

The government believes that business attitudes towards women have been slow to change and that the "potential for discrimination persists at all stages of a mother's employment journey".  It points to evidence that significant numbers of employers still think it is reasonable to ask women about their future plans to have children.

Do we know when any changes will come into force?

No. Once the consultation ends, the government will consider the replies and will publish its response. Until that happens, we won't know whether this is something the government will implement.

Please let us know what you think

We'd like to know whether you support these proposed changes. Please email joanne.moseley@irwinmitchell.com if you'd like to share your thoughts.