Redundancy during Maternity Leave

Our solicitors are experts in advising on automatic unfair dismissal, and pregnancy / maternity discrimination.

It is unlawful to dismiss someone because they are pregnant or exercising their right to maternity leave.

It is also unlawful to dismiss an employee for a reason connected to her pregnancy. For example, if a woman suffers from severe morning sickness and has to take several days off sick, it would be unlawful to dismiss her for the absence (since the absence is connected to her pregnancy).

Even if the reason for dismissal is not directly linked to the fact of pregnancy or maternity leave, the fact of the dismissal occurring whilst the employee is pregnant or on maternity raises specific issues.

For example, if a redundancy procedure is on going whilst an employee is pregnant or on maternity leave, particular care needs to be taken to ensure that they do not suffer detrimental treatment in the scoring process due to their absence. Perhaps the most obvious example of this would be taking account of pregnancy related sickness absence under an assessment of “sickness” may well put a pregnant lady at a disadvantage. Another example would be taking account of productivity whilst on maternity leave. Of course, if a person is on maternity leave their productivity levels will be way below anyone else who is attending work! A person’s pregnancy and/or maternity leave should not in anyway factor in their selection for redundancy.

If a new mother is selected for redundancy whilst she is on maternity leave, she is entitled priority in any suitable alternative vacancies that may exist within the organisation.

A dismissal in any of the above circumstances, would amount to an automatic unfair dismissal and pregnancy/maternity discrimination. Furthermore, an otherwise fair and non-discriminatory dismissal, may become unfair and discriminatory if a woman is not consulted, or is not properly consulted, because she is pregnant and/or on maternity leave.

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