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Family leave redundancy protection

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Individuals taking maternity, adoption or shared parental leave have traditionally been given enhanced protection from redundancy by way of being offered any suitable alternative work in priority to any other at risk employees.

From April 2024 this right is being extended as follows:

  • Pregnancy – the individual is now protected from the date they inform the employer of their pregnancy for the full period of the pregnancy;
  • Maternity leave – where maternity leave ends on or after 6 April 2024, the employee is protected for 18 months from the first day of the estimated week of childbirth (EWC);
  • Adoption leave – where the adoption leave ends on or after 6 April 2024, protected for the period of 18 months from the date of placement for adoption;
  • Shared parental leave – where the period of 6 weeks shared parental leave starts on or after 6 April 2024, protected for 18 months from birth/placement for adoption provided that the employee has taken a period of at least 6 continuous weeks of shared parental leave.

These changes increase the periods of protection. Previously, once an employee returned to work, they could be treated in the same manner as any other employee in a redundancy process, with many citing this as unfair by virtue of the individual not having been present in the workplace for up to 12 months prior and therefore not having had the same opportunity as others to demonstrate their capabilities. The increased protection will allow individuals to fully get back into the swing of the workplace following periods of family leave before facing the uncertainty of a redundancy process.

Employers should review their redundancy and family leave policies and make any necessary amendments to reflect the changes.

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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