Legal Update: Additional Legal Protection For Employees On Statutory Family Leave In A Redundancy Situation
Author: Swyn Llyr
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
As at the date of this article, employees on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave already have additional protection in a redundancy scenario as they have an enhanced right to be offered suitable alternative vacancy, subject to availability within the business, before being made redundant.
However, on 6 April 2024, The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family) Leave Act 2023 will come into force which will extend the redundancy protections that currently apply to those on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave to include employees who have recently returned to work from maternity leave (up until 18 months after the birth of their child), or those who are pregnant. In practice, this new protection shall apply to employees who notify their employer of their pregnancy on or after 6 April 2024, and for any statutory family leave ending on or after 6 April 2024. Effectively, the legislation extends priority status for redeployment opportunities in a redundancy situation to a wider group.
This legislation is being introduced after a study from ACAS was published in 2023 which revealed that 30% of employers were likely to make redundancies in the subsequent 12 months. As such, we anticipate that this new protection will be welcomed by many employees, but it may not appear as straightforward for employers as it will undoubtedly impact organisational restructure, requiring employers to give thorough consideration as to who could be eligible for priority status in a redundancy situation. Nonetheless, we recommend that all employers consider the following steps in the weeks leading up to the legislation being introduced:
- Start increasing awareness of the forthcoming change in HR communications between management. Managers and HR will need to be equipped to respond to employee queries in line with the latest rule, once implemented.
- Update your redundancy and/or family leave policies to reflect this extension of the protection for those on statutory family leave.
- Consider a record-keeping process to track employees’ proposed start and end date of statutory family leave and a system for identifying potential suitable vacancies across the business, to reduce the risk of litigation.
Lastly, it is important to bear in mind that whilst this legislation aims to foster a fair working environment for all, it does not prevent employees on statutory family leave from being made redundant, provided that the employer has offered a suitable vacancy before other employees in a redundancy situation.
Do get in touch with the Employment team at Acuity Law for further guidance and/or updated policies!