How to Manage Redundancy for Pregnant employees and those on Maternity Leave

Pregnant Employees Redundancy

ACAS has been working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and has issued new guidance on how to manage the redundancies of pregnant employees or those on maternity leave.

The guidance is a great tool for employers who are concerned over the processes necessary to ensure that they treat their employees fairly and legally. It provides a checklist of what needs to be done and when.

The guide highlights the fact that when a woman becomes pregnant and up until the end of her maternity leave she should be afforded special consideration if this is necessary to ensure she is not disadvantaged as a result of being pregnant. If an employer needs to make redundancies and a pregnant woman or one who is currently on maternity leave is included in the pool of those being made redundant then the employer must ask themselves whether or not this is a genuine redundancy situation. Whether or not there are alternative options needs to be considered also. In the usual way the employer is under an obligation to consult with the affected employees and should where possible consider alternative employment.

The employer must be careful to ensure that the selection criteria for redundancy is non-discriminatory. If the reason for choosing to make an employee redundant is in any way linked to their pregnancy then this will be unfair. The guide gives the example of realising that whilst someone is on maternity leave that the business can mange without that particular role. To make that person redundant is likely to be viewed as unlawful discrimination as well as automatic unfair dismissal. The redundancy would not have come about but for the pregnancy. If the business genuinely needed fewer employees then a fair process for deciding who should be made redundant needs to be employed to ensure that no one is disadvantaged.

The same considerations for deciding on who should be made redundant need to be applied, however, if for example, one of the criterions used is attendance, then a pregnant woman's attendance should be viewed in consideration of her pregnancy. In short the pregnancy can not disadvantage her. However, although consideration does need to be had to women who are pregnant or on maternity leave, that consideration should not go beyond what would be necessary to ensure the pregnancy does not cause her a disadvantage. Others in the redundancy process should not be prejudiced as a result. This means that employers should not fear being discriminatory and therefore ignore all the negatives associated with an employee simply because she has been pregnant. Care must be given as to whether or not all the failings are a direct result of the pregnancy or not.