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Can I be made redundant while I am pregnant?

Published 11 July 2022

For an expectant working mother it can be a time of great uncertainty and fearing you may be made redundant is an added worry you certainly do not need at that time.

You must not be selected for redundancy simply because you are pregnant.

If you are made redundant for that reason, then it is an ‘automatic unfair dismissal’ and discrimination.

An automatically unfair dismissal is the termination of an employee’s contract of employment in a manner that is inherently unfair and breaches the law e.g. because an employee is pregnant [1 cited 11.7.22]

Discrimination is against the law and it is unlawful to select an employee for redundancy based on their pregnancy, which is covered by the Equality Act 2010 [2 cited 11.7.22]

But in reality, and in common with any other employee, if you are pregnant you can still be made redundant.

However, for such a dismissal to be fair, there has to be a genuine redundancy situation and the process conducted must be fair.

There is a genuine redundancy situation if [3 cited 11.7.22]

  • The business is failing.
  • The business, or part of it, has stopped operating (often called becoming insolvent or going bust).
  • Your skills are no longer needed.
  • Your work is being done by other people, after a reorganisation.
  • The business, or the work you’re doing, moves to another location.
  • The business is taken over by another company.
  • Your employer was the sole owner of the business and they die.

However, in such situations you must not be put at a disadvantage just because you are pregnant.

 

If you are facing redundancy at any stage of your pregnancy then checking, questioning and where necessary challenging the proposal will help you to establish if you are being treated reasonably.

If you can show there is not a genuine redundancy situation and you are being made redundant because of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related sickness, then it would amount to unlawful pregnancy discrimination.

There are examples of employers getting it horribly wrong. It is reported that an expectant mother was sacked by her employer, a beauty company, when she was eight months pregnant and given just two weeks' notice of her redundancy [4 cited 11.7.22]

She was awarded more than £17,000 by an employment tribunal. The employer denied discrimination and said the decision was part of a restructuring.

If you are a pregnant employee then being informed you are at risk of redundancy can be an extremely worrying and uncertain time.

If you find yourself in this position do not be afraid to quiz your employer about the process, or seek support to do so if you do not feel comfortable doing it on your own.

You should ask questions on matters that can include: why there is a redundancy situation; whether other employees are at risk; when your employer first considered there was a redundancy situation; if there is a selection pool; or suitable alternative vacancies.

While you are pregnant your employer must consult with you in the same way as all other employees before selecting you for redundancy.

If you are off work with a pregnancy-related illness then you should still be consulted, but the way in which this is done can be adapted e.g. via video call, telephone or home visit.

If you are included in a selection pool you must not be disadvantaged by your pregnancy, pregnancy-related illness or because you are about to take maternity leave.

You should be considered fairly for suitable alternative vacancies in an effort to avoid making you redundant.

If you are not offered an appropriate job that is available based on the fact you cannot start it for a number of months because of your maternity leave, it would amount to maternity discrimination [5 cited 11.7.22]

ACAS has published a good practice advice guide for employers on correctly handling the redundancy process if they have employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave [6 cited 11.7.22]

It will help you to understand if you have been treated fairly if you are made redundant while pregnant, which can happen.

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