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Acas and EHRC launch guide to maternity rights and redundancy

Acas and the Equality Human Rights Commission have published a guide to help employers understand the rights of women who are pregnant or on maternity leave when facing redundancy.

Employers and employees seeking advice on pregnancy or maternity and redundancy issues make more than 15,000 calls a year to Acas's helpline.

Unfair dismissal or detriment related to being pregnant or on maternity leave accounted for 1,900 cases lodged at the Employment Tribunal in 2011-12*. The guide outlines what the law says and advice on how to handle the situation correctly. It sets out four important questions the employer should ask when considering which posts to make redundant:

  • Is the redundancy genuine?
  • How do I consult employees on maternity leave?
  • How do I decide the right selection criteria?
  • Is there a suitable alternative vacancy?

Steve Williams, Acas head of equality said: "There is still a lot of confusion amongst employers about managing an employee who is pregnant when their role is genuinely being made redundant. No redundancy situation is nice, but it can be made a lot worse if an employer is not aware of the law or how to treat a person fairly.

"Supervisors and managers need to know the specific rights of pregnant women and women on maternity leave. We know that employers want easy to understand help to handle these situations correctly."

Sarah Anderson, commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission added: "Cutting back on their workforce is one of the tough choices facing some businesses in Britain. Prospective and new mothers are not always sure of their rights around redundancy, nor are their employers - especially those running small and medium size enterprises. This can lead to mistakes being made. This guide will help managers get redundancy decisions right the first time. Otherwise an expensive tribunal case could end up costing the business more."

Rosalind Bragg, director, Maternity Action said: "Since the recession began, Maternity Action has provided advice to a steady stream of pregnant women and new mothers who have lost their jobs because of unfair - and unlawful - treatment in redundancy situations. This guidance is a useful step towards addressing this serious problem."

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