What do we already know?
In our February 2019 Newsletter Government reforms (1): Family friendly – protection against redundancy we updated you that the Government had published a Consultation, Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination: Consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents. The Consultation asked for views on what changes could be made to the current framework, to provide extra protection to pregnant employees. The Consultation closed on 5 April 2019.
We updated you in our July 2019 Newsletter Government Reforms (1): Tackling Gender Inequality & Workplace Sexual Harassment Consultation that the Government Equalities Office (GEO) had published a roadmap for change which set out the Government’s proposals to tackle key drivers of gender inequality, including strengthening equality legislation, closing the gender pay gap, reviewing the shared parental leave and pay scheme, consulting on a new right to carers’ leave, and closing the private pensions gap.
The Government is taking action following its proposals for change (detailed above).
Consultations – on strengthening support for families in the workplace: On 19 July 2019, the Government launched Good work plan: Proposals to support families, available here. This sets out three Consultations on the following:
- A proposal to introduce either a requirement, or a voluntary mechanism, for employers with 250 or more employees to publish their family-related leave and pay and flexible working policies. The Consultation also asks whether there should be a requirement for job adverts expressly to state whether the job could be done on a flexible basis. Options under consideration include a simple statement “happy to talk flexible working” or a link to the organisation’s approach to place, hours and time of work.
The Consultation closes on 11 October 2019.
- A proposal to introduce a ‘day one’ right to neonatal leave, which would provide parents (who are employees) with one week of neonatal leave for every week that their baby is in neonatal care, up to a certain number of weeks.
The right would apply in respect of babies who have spent a minimum of two continuous weeks in neonatal care immediately following birth, and the leave would be taken at the end of maternity leave. Employment protections, including the right to return to the same job, would be equivalent to those that exist in relation to ordinary parental leave.
The Consultation closes on 11 October 2019.
- proposals on high-level options for reforming parental leave and pay, including potential review and reform of:
- enhancing statutory paternity pay and changing the reimbursement models through which employers recover statutory payments from the state;
- extending the period of statutory paternity leave;
- enhancing the shared parental leave and pay scheme;
- changes to statutory maternity leave and or pay;
- reforming aspects of parental leave; and
- a more radical move towards a single family leave set of entitlements.
The Consultation closes on 29 November 2019.
Response to Consultation – on extending redundancy protection: On 22 July 2019, the Government published its response (available here) to its consultation on Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination: Consultation on extending redundancy protection for women and new parents. The Government says that it is determined to take action to address pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The Government announced its commitment to:
- ensure that the redundancy protection period (the right for pregnant women and new mothers on maternity leave to be offered suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation) applies from the point an employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether orally or in writing;
- extend the redundancy protection period so that it continues for six months after an employee has returned to work from maternity or adoption leave;
- extend the redundancy protection period for a proportionate period after an employee has returned to work from shared parental leave, taking account of certain key principles and issues (the Government says it will consult further on the design of this protection in the coming months); and
- establish a taskforce to develop “an action plan on what steps the Government and other organisations can take to make it easier for pregnant women and new mothers to stay in work“, and what measures can be taken to raise awareness of employer obligations and employee rights.
The Government has not provided a timescale for implementing these changes, but rather refers to changes taking place “when parliamentary time allows”.