Although research is in the preliminary stages, UK and international studies conducted on the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on women’s careers and job security have shown that both have suffered greatly over the past year. In a United Nations (UN) report the impact of the pandemic on women’s careers and finances was clearly stated.
“As women take on greater care demands at home, their jobs will also be disproportionately affected by cuts and lay-offs. Such impacts risk rolling back the already fragile gains made in female labor force participation, limiting women’s ability to support themselves and their families, especially for female-headed households. In many countries, the first round of layoffs has been particularly acute in the services sector, including retail, hospitality, and tourism, where women are overrepresented.”
Dr Clare Wehnham, assistant professor of global health policy at LSE told The Independent:
“historically pandemics have been bad news for women because during times of crisis “gender norms become more entrenched”. This includes women being “more likely to lose their jobs” – which was also true during Ebola and Zika.”
In a crisis, some employers believe they can ignore employment law, especially legal protections around making a woman redundant before, during, and after maternity leave. However, statutory and contractual employment rights do not disappear during a pandemic, unless the government makes specific provisions to that effect. Therefore, if you have been made redundant during pregnancy or shortly after maternity leave and the process was unfair, you can claim unfair dismissal.
Can I be made redundant when I am pregnant or during/shortly after maternity leave?
An employer can only make you lawfully redundant for the following reasons:
You can be selected for redundancy if you are pregnant or on maternity leave but the reason for your selection cannot be because of those factors. If you believe you have been made redundant due to your pregnancy or maternity leave, you may have a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, as well as unfair dismissal.
Do I have any protection if I am faced with redundancy during my maternity leave?
If you are on maternity leave and your employer announces there are to be redundancies, then under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, you have the right to be offered a suitable, alternative position ahead of other employees.
Your dismissal will be automatically unfair if your employer has a suitable job available and do not offer it to you.
If you are pregnant and not yet on maternity leave when the redundancy process begins, your employer does not have to offer you an alternative position ahead of other employees.
Does unpaid maternity leave count as service for the purposes of redundancy pay?
Yes, because the terms and conditions of your employment continue whilst you are on maternity leave.
If I am made redundant during maternity leave, will I still receive statutory maternity pay (SMP) as well as redundancy pay?
If you qualify for SMP you will be paid out the full amount on top of any statutory and contractual redundancy payment you are entitled to. Tax and National Insurance reductions will be applied to your SMP pay-out.
If you enter into a Settlement Agreement with your employer, the agreement must clearly state the amount of SMP you are entitled to, tax and national insurance deductions, and how much contractual redundancy you are receiving.
Can I request to come back to work part-time after maternity leave?
Changing your role to one that is part-time instead of full time means you are changing the terms of your employment contract. If you have worked for your employer for 26 weeks or more, you have a statutory right to request flexible working arrangements. Your employer must consider your request and can only refuse for one or more of the following business reasons:
If your employer refuses your request for one of the above reasons, they must provide a written explanation.
Making an employee redundant before, during, and after maternity leave is exceptionally risky. If the redundancy procedure is not carried out strictly within the statutory guidelines, a claim for unfair dismissal or discrimination can quickly arise. This puts you, as an employee, in a strong position to suggest a Settlement Agreement to your employer as both of you will receive an advantage. Your employer’s risk of an Employment Tribunal claim will be negated, and you are likely to get a larger financial settlement than you would receive if you accepted redundancy pay and SMP.
If you have been made redundant because of going on maternity leave, call Settlement Agreement Solicitors today on 0800 048 5667 or fill in your details below to request a call-back. We will make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.