Strengthening redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents is “absolutely the right thing to do” on the road to building a better society, a business minister has said.
Lord Johnson of Lainston told Parliament the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill would simplify the rules for employers.
The backbench legislation would create new powers to protect women from redundancy during and after pregnancy.
It would also amend existing regulations to protect parents from redundancy on return to work from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave.
Backing the proposed law, Lord Johnson said: “These measures will provide valuable support and protection for pregnant women and parents after parental leave.
“Supporting this Bill is in line with our ongoing commitment to supporting workers, working mothers and parents, and building a high-skilled, highly productive, high-wage and fair economy.
“I believe it is simple for business and I believe it is absolutely the right thing to do on our journey to building a better society.”
Proposing the Bill at second reading, Tory peer Baroness Bertin, a former top aide to David Cameron, said: “I do believe very strongly that no woman should ever have to fear losing her job because she is pregnant or because she has taken her entitled leave.”
She told peers: “I believe this Bill is a welcome strengthening of the redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents.
“Not only will it prevent unscrupulous employers from discriminating against pregnant women. It also acknowledges that you are not necessarily on a level playing field as soon as you come back from your maternity leave or your shared parental leave.
“To be put on a level playing field in a round of job cuts is simply not fair when you have come straight back from your leave.”
Lady Bertin said: “This is a progressive policy. I believe this Bill will make a real difference to people’s lives. To that woman telling her boss not with trepidation but now with confidence that she is pregnant and to the mother returning to work after maternity leave, knowing her job is more safe and more secure.
“This is a small step but it has wider significance. It is a statement about the sort of society we are and want to be – one that protects and values parents, and the sort of economy we are trying to build – one that makes the most of all its talents.”
A number of peers referred to government-commissioned research that indicated around 54,000 new mothers were forced out of their jobs each year.
Liberal Democrat Lord Fox said: “This a huge waste of human capital.”
He added: “This Bill makes it impossible for unscrupulous employers to get rid of women in a way that has clearly been happening systematically across the country.”
“It undeniably moves things forward.”
Labour frontbencher Lord Leong said: “We should be supporting not penalising people who want to remain in work.”
The Bill, which has already been through the Commons, received an unopposed second reading by peers and now goes for further scrutiny.