Specialising in HR, we’re often asked by our clients to help across a number of HR related areas, from gross misconduct to dress code queries. Many of these questions are relevant for all businesses and industries across the UK, so to help you, we’ve created our Q&A section to help businesses understand HR and how they can tackle any problems that may arise.
Can I make a pregnant woman redundant?
Yes. It’s an urban myth that you cannot — but do take great care. The law is harsh on those who transgress or simply get it wrong in these circumstances.
The legislation and case law makes it clear that during the “protected period” (that is, the period of time from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of maternity leave) unfavourable treatment of a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave is unlawful. This means a woman doesn’t have to compare her treatment with anyone else to show direct pregnancy and maternity discrimination. She is entitled to special consideration if this is necessary to make good any disadvantage she may otherwise experience.
There are further legal points that you must consider:
- a woman on maternity leave has the right to return to the same job before she left; an interim employee cannot be given her job even if you think the person is a better employee
- selecting a woman for redundancy because of her pregnancy, maternity leave or a related reason is automatically unfair dismissal as well as being unlawful discrimination
- failure to consult a woman on maternity leave about possible redundancy is likely to be unlawful discrimination
- a woman made redundant while on maternity leave must be offered any suitable alternative vacancy if you have one. She doesn’t need to apply for it.
In short, if there is no suitable alternative vacancy, a woman can be made redundant during her statutory maternity leave, provided the reason for redundancy is unconnected with her pregnancy or maternity leave and you have followed a fair redundancy process.