Great expectations

Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any worse Brexit-wise, it now appears that we may be back to the impasse of neither staying nor leaving the EU in the near future.

Last time I blogged, I did hold out some hope that we’d be moving in one direction or the other but at the time of writing it looks like there may be another extension to B-day or, even more ludicrous, the prime minister impeached for breaking the law...  Of course, the EU has to agree to another delay to the UK’s withdrawal first, and if President Macron is as good as his word, he may well use his veto to block this, meaning the UK will exit, come what may, on 31 October.

I just hope that by the time Law on Tour gets on the road (well, rail tracks, actually) on 1 October, we’ll all have a little more clarity over what happens next.

There is more concrete change expected, however, on the employment law front, in spite of the dilly-dallying, bluff and bluster, and general mayhem being played out in the House of Commons.  We have four important consultations at various stages, including extending redundancy protection for new and expectant mothers.

In its response to the redundancy protection consultation, the Government states it will definitely extend the period of preferential treatment provided under the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999, so that it starts as soon as a woman tells her employer she is pregnant and lasts up to six months after she returns to work from maternity leave. This means that if she is at risk of redundancy during this protected period, she must be offered any suitable vacancy, ahead of any other employee at risk of redundancy.

The additional protection will also apply to employees on adoption leave and, proportionately, to those on shared parental leave.

Maria Miller MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, is striving for even more protection for new and expectant mothers, however, and has introduced a private member’s bill.  The Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill 2019 would prevent a pregnant woman from being made redundant from the start of her pregnancy until six months after her return to work, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Whether or not the Bill will survive into the next Parliamentary session, however, is unknown and while illustrating the strength of feeling on the subject in some quarters, it would likely be very unpopular with some employers and, more likely, some employees too.

We’ll be discussing the implications of the new proposals in our Law on Tour workshops, starting in Leeds on 1 October and, who knows, we may even be clear about Brexit – but I don’t expect we will!

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